Rain-swollen East Coast waterways slowly recede

AP News
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Posted: Mar 13, 2011 5:11 PM
Rain-swollen East Coast waterways slowly recede

Rain-swollen waterways in northern New Jersey slowly receded Sunday after cresting overnight, causing fewer evacuations than expected but still flooding roadways around in the region.

Despite clear skies in the forecast, officials said flooding will remain a concern for at least the next few days, and it's not clear when all residents will be able to return to their homes. They also said it will take days to estimate the cost of repairing damage caused by the storms and the flooding.

The Passaic River crested at 9 p.m. Saturday _ earlier than expected _ and has been receding since.

Kristin Kline, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, said Sunday that the river crested at four feet above flood stage in Little Falls, and about three feet over flood stage in Pine Brook. The flooding wasn't as severe as predicted, she said, but is still considered major.

Officials had expected that the flooding would force hundreds of people to be evacuated from Paterson, Little Falls and other nearby areas by early Sunday. But that was not the case as many residents apparently took heed of warnings and left before the flooding occurred, finding temporary shelter with friends and family.

"The flooding is causing problems obviously, but there haven't been any injuries or deaths yet, and that's what's important," an emergency services dispatcher in Paterson said Sunday morning.

Less than 100 people were staying in two shelters set up in Paterson, while roughly a dozen people stayed overnight at a shelter in Little Falls. The sites will remain open as long as there is a need for them, officials said.

The flooding continued to cause major travel disruptions in the region, and the problems were expected to continue over the next few days. Several major roadways remained closed, while traffic was moving slowly through others water-logged roadways. Some cars stuck in high waters had been abandoned, and a bus became stuck on a bridge in Paterson early Sunday due to the flooding along the Passaic River

But that didn't stop people from heading out Sunday morning to the banks of the rain-swollen waterways to take a look at Mother Nature's talents.

"That was awesome," said Jonathan Mottola, 10, of Verona as he watched the water surge past him. Others marveled at rainbows in the morning sky.

Meanwhile, most residents in other northern towns who had been evacuated earlier in the week were back home Sunday, surveying the damage caused by the floods and heavy rains that soaked New Jersey and other mid-Atlantic states in recent days. But some Bergen County residents _ including those in Fair lawn and Elmwood Park _ could still not return home because flood waters in those areas had not yet receded by late Sunday afternoon.

Those storms had also caused problems in states from Maine to Maryland earlier in the week, but officials in those states say conditions were mostly back to normal by Sunday.