'Now What?': Sudden Flood Caught Pine Brook Residents Off Guard

Officials are trying to determine why there was more flooding than anticipated.

Montville Township is working to help about two dozen lower Pine Brook families affected by a sudden flood on Sunday night and trying to determine what happened leading up to the flooding and why the amount was greater than anticipated.

About 20 families in lower Pine Brook evacuated their homes in water that was waist-high at some points. Some left with little warning on Sunday night, while others left the following morning. The evacuations started a few hours after the town already had closed its Emergency Operations Center because the effects of Hurricane Irene seemed to be diminishing, officials said.

Changebridge, Woodmont and Normandy roads, Sheffield Street and Walnut Drive had some flooding on Sunday afternoon, but soon they were inundated with much more water.

Ranjan Takier and several of his Sheffield Street neighbors returned to their homes on Tuesday morning to figure out how to start repairing damage to their property. Some residents were surveying the damage for the first time. Resident Bob Dudek and his wife, Elaine, and son, Rob, stayed in their home. They had 5 feet of water in their basement on Tuesday.

Takier said he does not have flood insurance because his home is not in a flood zone and that he hopes there will be financial assistance available.

Neighbors said they are hoping for some guidance from the town as to what they should do next.

"Now what?" Takier said.

Montville closed its Emergency Operations Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday saying the effects of the storm were diminishing. But around 9:30 p.m., police officers and members of the National Guard were going door-to-door saying voluntary evacuations were under way, that residents should leave in 20 minutes and that they could be taken to Montville Township High School, though the school didn’t have cots for people to spend the night.

“We were caught a little off guard,” Mayor Jim Sandham said Tuesday.

There were a number of circumstances that could have affected the amount of flooding, and Sandham said the town was trying to determine what happened. At 5:12 p.m. Sunday, Parsippany police sent out an alert reporting that the Rockaway River flood wall failed and residents in its path should consider leaving. On Sunday night, Montville police were contacted by United Water, with the company indicating the Jersey City Reservoir dam could "overtop," causing "a substantial amount of additional water to be discharged into the already flood swollen river." Sandham said authorities mobilized as fast as they could.

Sandham said there were conflicting reports as to whether United Water intentionally released water from the dam. An attempt to reach United Water on Tuesday evening was unsuccessful.

Hurricane Irene drenched Montville and surrounding towns during the storm. An organization that tracks precipation amounts reported more than 5.5 inches of rain in neighboring Boonton Township, while Wayne received more than 10 inches. The Rockaway River at Boonton below the Jersey City Reservoir crested at 9.73 feet at 10:45 p.m. on Sunday, more than a foot above the previous record set in 1979. The Rockaway River feeds into the Passaic River, which was at a major flood stage at the time and continued to swell for more than a day to its own record crest.

"We're just hoping the river comes down and then we're going to do what we can to help these people get back on their feet," Sandham said.

Louise August 31, 2011 at 02:57 PM
There was 10.2 inches of rain in Wayne and over 9 in Lincoln Park. Judging by my own circumstances, we certainly got more than "around 7".
Jake Remaly (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 04:30 PM
I haven't seen Montville-specific numbers, but was looking at surrounding towns. An organization that says Wayne got 10 inches also says Boonton Township, which borders Montville, got 5.6 inches: http://www.cocorahs.org/ViewData/StateDailyPrecipReports.aspx?state=NJ Just edited the story to be more precise. Thank you. Any other sources of rainfall amounts are of interest.
Ron Cain Jr August 31, 2011 at 06:33 PM
I feel it necessary to relate to you the TRUE facts. The Township of Montville has done little to assist the residents of this area. The Pine Brook Volunteer FD has been assisting in the area since Sunday evening and remain assisting. The FD force is being assisted by volunteers from the Towaco and Montville fire departments. It was the volunteers that warned of the pending danger and evacuated the residents that wished to leave. The national guard and a police officer were available to assist on Monday afternoon and evening only. Towhship employees that are also volunteers were told they were allowed to leave there jobs to assist. The facts need to be known
Jake Remaly (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Township police assisted with evacuations on Sunday night using a township dump truck because the water was so deep, police said. I will be posting another story about this today.
Ron Cain Jr August 31, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Jake - I have yet to see you mention the efforts of the volunteers. As a volunteer firefighter for the past 50 years and current Chairman of the Pine Brook Board of Fire Commissioners I would encourage you to take a tour of the are and see for yourself. Perhaps you might even dig in and lend a hand. Oh and one more thing, we take offense to the term lowe Pine Brook. We are in Pine Brook which is a section of Montville Twp.
Jake Remaly (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 08:59 PM
We tracked down a Pine Brook fire official yesterday at the firehouse after talking with families on Sheffield Street, but he was not able to talk at the time due to more urgent concerns. We have learned more about what the volunteer firefighters are doing and always are looking to learn more: 973-452-1013, jacob.remaly@patch.com When I heard an official say they evacuated lower Pine Brook residents, I understood that to mean a low-lying portion of the Pine Brook section of the township.
einaphets September 01, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Mr. Cain, I remember you from my childhood as the Chief of the FD. My parents live on Normandy Rd and were flooded out of their house. The Towaco FD came and pumped their cellar out yesterday. My senior parents were given no assistance from the police department and I was given misinformation when I called the PD for information. The volunteers from the FD who came to the house yesterday were WONDERFUL! They were the only people who offered any assisitance! Many, many thanks to them!!!!
Ron Cain Jr September 01, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Thank your for your kind words and support. As you can imagine the Pine Brook FD was over whelmed with requests for assistance. We thank our mutual aid compaines, the Towaco and Montville fire departments for their assistance. A team effort by the three twp. fire departments resulted in our being able to assist all that requested it.
Jake Remaly (Editor) September 01, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Volunteer firefighters worked around the clock and pumped water out of 60 flooded houses. Story here: http://montville.patch.com/articles/pine-brook-fd-pumps-60-homes We've also got more info from United Water. The company said the warning that prompted the evacuations Sunday night was rescinded an hour later, and that the company did not release water: http://montville.patch.com/articles/pine-brook-evacuations-came-as-jersey-city-reservoir-dam-topped-over
Piney September 02, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Jake they did release water. Stop stating lies so United water and The Montville Police can cover their asses. My family has live on Normandy Rd for over 45+ years and I have never seen anything like this. I go to my parents house every big storm to help them out if they need it. The storm had passed and everything was fine by 8 am. At 3 pm the streets started to flood and it kept getting worse. By 8 pm all the house were about to go under or already were. The police did NOT do a house to house evacuation as they stated. My family was in the house until after 9 pm moving furniture . After I walked my parents out in a few feet of water. I told my parents I was going back in to tell all our neighbors to get out. It was like 10 pm at that time. The Montville police didn't go in to get the few remaining people until after I had left at 10:30 pm. And the next day they sat around and didn't check on anyone going in. I even went in late one evening to check my parents house and I should have been stop and questioned. I wasn't, I just walked by the cop while he was on his phone. Only 1 officer was helpful when I asked. Others just couldn't be bothered. Maybe you should do a little work and get the facts straight. Walk the neighborhoods and talk to the residence who have lost alot because of failed local government policies.
Louise September 02, 2011 at 02:56 AM
The 5.6 inches reported in Boonton is a Sunday, 8/29 figure only.
Jake Remaly (Editor) September 02, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Tried to give a sense of what residents went through in this video that we shot and posted Tuesday: http://montville.patch.com/articles/national-guard-evacuates-some-pine-brook-families#video-7567496 Other neighbors told stories similar to Mr. Dudek's, but they, unlike Mr. Dudek, didn't stay in their homes. They left in the dark, in a rush, in feet of water knowing their homes would be flooded. One neighbor was carrying a baby. Affected residents and business owners interested in federal disaster relief should apply as soon as possible: http://montville.patch.com/articles/disaster-area-residents-register-with-fema We will report any additional information about the flooding as it becomes available.
Jake Remaly (Editor) September 02, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Adding both days for Boonton: 0.21 + 5.36 Parsippany, as another possible indicator, shows 0.02 + 7.55 If I'm reading the tables wrong please let me know!
BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 08:35 PM
MR. SCOTT DIGIRALOMO (973) 829-8600 MORRIS COUNTY OEM BOX 900 COURT HOUSE MORRISTOWN NJ 07960 Fax: (973) 829-8604 24/7: (973) 285-2900 E-mail: sdigiralomo@co.morris.nj.us Deputy Coordinator: Raymond Hayling rhayling@co.morris.nj.us 973-829-8600 973-829-8604 fax Scott DiGiralomo - sdigiralomo@co.morris.nj.us Keith Heimburg - kheimburg@co.morris.nj.us URL: www.morrisoem.org
BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 09:15 PM
They closed the Emergency Operations Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday !!! ? Sunday @ 6pm ???. .really...??? . For pump-outs, information or to report property damage, call the Montville Police Department at 973-257-4300. If you experience an emergency, please contact the Police Department by calling 9-1-1.
BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 09:20 PM
FYI.. This is the pump I bought last December. to replace a 2 yr old HomeDepot crap special, http://www.zoellerpumps.com/ProductBenefit.aspx?ProductID=89 RAN 30 hours straight after power went on..cleared thousand of gal. of water injested with debris..and ? ..without a hiccup.Make sure the sump is covered and secured with wire mesh or plastic cover.NOT cheap but worth ot. Pilled out a dead squirrel from a neighbors pump hole Tuesday.
BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 09:29 PM
Lets make it MAKE it loud and claer..the unpaid VOLUNTEER (F.D. , etc. service workers) that worked and are still out here, during the days and nights for the Montville Twsp. Residents,during and after this debacle are in my book the angels of our streets. They are our neighbors and friends, that risked life and limb..to be what we nver thought we would need. THATS the definition of dedication.
Dave F September 05, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Ron - the Montville Police department was significantly involved in the evacuation efforts Sunday evening. They were the first on the scene and were going door to door before the PB FD arrived. Why are you saying things that clearly inaccurate? This is not the time for turf wars.
Todd Schwartz September 08, 2011 at 11:19 PM
We sustained a total loss of our business at 321 Changebridge which was under 2 feet of water, levels NEVER seen before. Helpless we resorted to a insurance brokers which left for the holiday weekend and FEMA. We are dumb founded that a person claiming basement flooding for a finished basement abandoned since 1978 tare given priority because of the "primary dwelling" definition. I have spoke with not less than a six families which all have received aid despite a) being able to continue occupancy b) being able to continue to work. We are currently housing relatives who lost their home in Springfield. The day following irene we pulled cars flooded up to their windows in the middle of Changebridge out, chaperoned lineman trucks from Ohio dumped off by State Police unable to get around. The 24 hours following the flood we did not see a single emergency response vehicle. There were camera crews posted at the florist shop covering this. Rather than pass judgement or make assumptions, we rolled up our sleeves and started in by boat. People do not believe when we tell them that Irene knocked us to the ground. Not a single person has reached out to us other than a few customers and we have been working around the clock, cleaning and disinfecting to prevent mold which is the real devil here. Our insurance has since denied our claim and FEMA has still not responded. We just want our town to know that there is more to the picture than sometimes meets the eyes. Thanks


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