Some New Jersey Residents Say Flooding Is Making Them Physically Sick

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The rain was still coming down Wednesday night and for some people it was both a disaster and a health hazard.

The rivers are already above flood stage in several areas in New Jersey and those levels are not expected to crest until Friday in some spots. Frustrated homeowners have been forced to pack up what is left of their lives as waters rise again.

A flood warning is in effect for much of New Jersey. Click here to see the latest warnings and watches. The rain that began Tuesday will continue to fall in the saturated region through Thursday.

The thought of more rain or another flood makes Paterson resident Haydee Ocasio sick — literally.

“I can’t breathe. It feels like my chest is going to explode,” she told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.

Ocasio, who has asthma, is struggling to live in her family’s home. Irene, flooded the basement and first floor. The water has receded, but the problem is growing.

“The first two days here with the heat, you couldn’t live here. You couldn’t live in this basement,” Ocasio’s sister, Vanessa, said.

“My body’s achy and I really can’t breathe around here,” Ocasio said.

“I think as time goes on and you have mold growth it’s going to be a more significant problem for immuno-suppressed and individuals who are sensitized to mold,” said allergist Dr. . Maryann Michelis.

There are crushed lives in Little Falls as crews try to get rid of the destruction Irene left behind before more rain moves in.  Amid the rubble left out on the street are pictures, toys, mementos and prized possessions.

1010 WINS’ Terry Sheridan Reports From Little Falls

“It’s people’s lives, their money. They have to start all over again,” Jack Zahn told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.

Sitting in the middle of her devastated living room on top of buckled wooden floors, Sue Bartole was just in shock.

“We should just try to get out of here soon so we don’t see anything,” she said.

Despite the misery, Sandra Prell — with her entire living room and kitchen on the street — said she plans on staying.

“I was born in this house, I’m going to die in this house. They will have to put me underwater and float me away. I will never leave,” she said.

Little Falls Mayor Michael DeFrancisci has had enough and wants the federal government to dredge the Passaic River in a bid to prevent flooding.

“Until someone gets serious in Washington, and FEMA takes notice, nothing is going to get done.” DeFrancisci said. “I mean, how much more can people take? I spent four days down here with people going through wrecked belongings, lives shattered. There’s no words left. It’s time for the federal government to do what needs to be done here.”

Also in Little Falls, Raffaele Lagonigro is trying to remain calm while looking at all of the debris in front of his house, but he’s got bigger things on mind.

“My wife’s going into labor tonight, she’s getting induced.  So we have to get out of here and with all this that’s going on it’s insane.  It’s supposed to be a happy time, and right now, she’s stressed out, she’s crying,” he told CBS 2’s Kristen Thorne.


Paterson’s Emergency Operations Center is still up and running, a leftover from the flooding that began last weekend. Officials fear the continued rainfall means it will be needed again in the very near future.

Cars drove through standing water on streets that until recently were underwater.  It was a minor hassle compared to the major flooding of last week.

1010 WINS’ John Montone reports: Residents Weary Of More Flooding Along The Passaic 

Hackensack resident Angela Burke is trying to take the possibility of more flooding in stride.

“It’s scary, you know, really scary,” Burke said. “But it’s nature, so what are you going to do?”

The Passaic River is expected to hit major flood stage late Friday and into Saturday. If it does, it will put the city’s bridges at risk. It will also continue to sink the already exhausted municipal budget. So far, Paterson is at least $50 million in debt after Irene.


In Passaic, Kevin Pullman was spraying mud from the driveway of his business, which sits on River Drive. The Passaic River is rising once again and flowing right behind his building.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney In Passaic

“Trying to clean up although I don’t if we’re going to clean up. Don’t know if we’re coming back here. This is the third flood in five years,” he said.

He told WCBS 880 reporter Levon Putney that at least five feet of water got inside and the dozen or so sandbags stacked outside the door were no match for the water.

“I don’t know where to start,” he said. “At this point, waiting for the insurance adjuster.”

The Red Cross said Tuesday it was getting ready to provide emergency shelter for 2,000 more people, if needed.


In Hasbrouck Heights, the DPW used pumps to empty runoff out of storm drains.  That procedure caused backups and lane closures near routes 17 and 46, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.


Meanwhile homeowners whose homes were flooded during Irene have been seeking relief from the federal government. More than 15,000 residents have filed claims with FEMA, and some $3 million in aid has been disbursed.

Others are hoping for some sort of buyout.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports: Residents Frustrated With Passaic River Flooding

little falls Some New Jersey Residents Say Flooding Is Making Them Physically Sick

A sign in front of a home in Little Falls, NJ - Sept. 7, 2011 (credit: Sean Adams/WCBS 880)

The Senate is working on an additional $5 million for buyouts. Residents say that’s a drop in the bucket. Some are in line to have their homes raised, but the process has been slow.

Governor Chris Christie has praised President Barack Obama and the federal response to Irene thus far.

“It’s working well, I’ve said that publicly any number of times, and the credit goes to the people who are doing it,” Christie said. “So the credit first goes to the president of the United States, for putting the right people in place who are obviously executing very well. It goes to Janet Napolitano, ’cause it’s on her watch as Secretary of Homeland Security that this is happening.”

The buyout measure is expected to be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

How are you doing when it comes to getting back to normal after Irene? Share your story in the comments section below.

  • more government

    Developer says to Banker lets get approval to build in flood plain, there’s a flood every 100 years, small risk.
    Banker says I know friends in high places that support big business and I can get the rules changed, and I know investors to pony up and fund the project, and millions will be made. This is captilalism and there’s a buck to be made, to hell with big government socialism telling us what we can and can’t do.

    Besides if we cluster this up, the feds will have to cover our losses and the middle class can pay for it. So either way, Banker, developer, broker we make the money and if it fails middle class can pay for it and they are so stupid they will just blame the democrats.

  • ruben

    …………I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use ( Bidsget ) . ( com )

  • Frustrated

    It’s a shame to see the negative comments here. Silly me for thinking that we should help our neighbors because you never know when you’re going to be the one who needs help.

    • Nick

      Oh, I think I would know if I’m in a flood plain. It’s called FLOOD INSURANCE. I just don’t go demanding handouts like you.

      • Sick&Tired

        People do have flood insurance! But how many times can people keep rebuilding only to have everything ruined in another flood. This is the 4th flood in a year, there has to be something that can be done to PREVENT the floods from happening in the first place! Like i told “jagdish” you may not live in a flood plain, but you do live in a Hurricane prone state, I’m sure you will be whistling a different tune if your house got destroyed by a Hurricane. Mother Nature may just have you heartless people in her sights!!

  • jagdish

    Boo Hoo. I live in a flood zone. I got flooded. I want my neighbors to give me money in addition to the insurance money coming to me. I’m the new American. This must be someone else’s responsibility. Give me money. Boo Hoo.

    • Sick&Tired

      I hope your house gets destroyed by a hurricane and you look to FEMA for assistance and all they do is hand you a tissue and say boohoo too bad. Afteralll why are you stupid enough to live in a Hurricane prone area in the first place??
      Better get of Jersey before you reep what you sow.

  • LW

    Not one of you angry, negative, selfish people are seeing the big picture! No one is looking for a hand out. The last thing any of these people want to do is leave their homes, but if the govt refuses to find a solution to the problem THEY created, what are these residents supposed to do? They can’t sell, so are they supposed to allow their houses to go into foreclosure and walk away from everything they invested in their homes? They can’t dredge the river, or put in levees or dams themselves, they are at the mercy of mother nature and the federal gov’t! Everyone of these people pays taxes on property that is now worthless! Funny how the people in this country can’t wait to give to the victims of some natural disaster in another country, but they sit in judgement and hang on tight to their purses strings when the disaster happens here on American soil. Makes me so proud to be an American.

    • DanTe

      Of course you parasites are looking for handouts. You have signs outside that said so: “BUY US OUT”. And weren’t you mandated to buy flood insurance? You know, the insurance that pays for the damages?

  • Surfin Bird

    Hopefully the state of New Jersey will build larger sewers so there are no more floods.

  • nyc

    We were dumb enough to rebuild New Orleans. We will be dumb enough to pay for this over and over. We will also be dumb enough to ignore the changing climate. Thanks.

  • HighNDry

    These idiots bought houses in a flood plain, now the taxpayers have to “buy them out”? Stoopid on both sides.

    • nyc

      damn right.

    • NY Communist

      The idiots can be bought out; while the smarter ones who avoided living in these areas should be punshied

    • Leslie

      Many of the “idiots” you refer to bought these homes back in the 50s and it wasn’t a flood prone area then. The first major flood occured in 1984. Over the past 20 years shopping complexes and office buildings have been allowed to be built in the flood plain, now the water has no where to go but where people live. NOTHING has been done to correct this problem, NOTHING and the frequency of the floods keeps increasing. Now the “idiots” houses are virtually worthless. Where are these people who invested their lives in these homes, supposed to go now? The federal govt created this problem, now they need to pay to reconcile it!

  • Less Government

    This is the new American Union: Why should Joe have to foot the bill to pay for Mary’s flood? That’s Socialist. Dredge your own river. Why does Washington have to do it? Less government is what you wanted. This is what you get. You took the chance and moved there. Not my fault. No more bail outs. You elected a Republican. That’s the way they think. Hope you had insurance. Maybe put your house on 6 foot blocks.

    • Jo

      You are spot on, my friend !

  • Omar

    Build a levee to protect the residents once and for all or build a dam and flood the entire area. The government can pay to relocate these folks so federal flood insurance doesn’t have to pay for them to rebuild.

  • Chuck Akalski

    Well I’m sure that the Republican Tea Partiers, who advocate smaller government and massive spending cuts, would say that the flooding is not the government’s problem and that the flooded out homeowners need to take care of their own problems and not bother millionaires and billionaires with the talk of higher taxes. Those taxes would get the millionaires and billionaires very upset!

  • Frenchie

    Some are in line to have their homes raised, but the process has been slow.

    “RAZED”, perhaps?

  • E Drews

    You have a choice:
    – Be taxed one time to buy out the residents of flood-prone areas
    – Be taxedx time and again (yes, Federal Flood Insurance) to pay for rebuilding the houses built in a flood prone area again and again and again and again.

    The less-than-intelligent decision was to build in the flood plain in the first place, and for the town(s) to approve permits to buold in the flood plain.

  • Nick

    Why should I be taxed to buy you out of your stupid decision to live in a flood plain?

    • Less Government

      Why should I have to pay to have the fire department stop your house from burning down. Why do I have to pay the police because your mother was raped and killed? Why do I have to pay because you gave birth to a idiot child? Why do I have to pay to keep your murdering father locked up? Why do I have to pay for you brother having a heart attack?

      • Nick

        One can’t expect sound logic from these parasites. “Less Government” indeed. Where will you get your cheese from than?

      • Glenn Erdmann

        You my friend are comparing apples and oranges.

      • Clark A.

        How much would I have to pay you to shut the hell up?

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