HELMETTA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Central New Jersey residents who fled their homes due to Henri are waiting to see the damage caused by flooding.
More than 100 people were evacuated and some were rescued by boat, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported Sunday.
With the rain and storm conditions slowing considerably Sunday night, residents were hopeful they wouldn’t get dumped on again like they did in the morning. In the Middlesex County borough of Helmetta, debris filled the top of John Street. The water has since totally receded, but residents are still not allowed to return.
“I have not been able to get back to my house. Railroad Avenue is completely flooded still and I don’t know what kind of shape my house is in. My car is probably under water, so I’m in pretty bad shape right now,” resident Laura Hettinger said.
First responders came in with emergency vehicles and rescue boats to evacuate people from the rising water. Hettinger said when she was told it was mandatory, she left her home.
“They evacuated me by boat, and then truck,” resident Laura Hettinger said.
Helmatta Mayor Chris Slavicek said the borough’s system of creeks was overloaded with torrential rain and overflow from other bodies of water, leaving roads washed out, businesses a muddy mess, and homes destroyed.
“The quote that I heard was, ‘It was like a bomb went off.’ You know, you don’t think of the sentimental things people place in their yards, all washed up. Emotions are very raw. I think people will deal with this for some time,” Slavicek said.
“We have 71 homes that are displaced, hundreds of residents. There’s some severe damage. Foundations are broken out, not stable or safe for residents to go back,” he added. “Emergency vehicles, rescue boats, it was like a scene from a movie. We are a hidden gem here in Helmetta and never expected something can happen to this caliber.”
Michele Squire started the clean-up process Sunday afternoon, prioritizing storm drains.
“When I woke up I looked out the window and I was devastated. I said, ‘Holy moly,'” Squire said. “Between the twigs and the plastic, the water wasn’t going down. I wanted to clear them so water would drain down. Once we did that, the water was going really fast, I felt better.”
“It was fine one minute and the next minute this brown water starts seeping through the streets,” resident Sue Savage added.
Most residents were told they could not go to their homes Sunday night. Authorities will be checking to make sure the homes are safe and stable enough Monday to return.
When asked about the timelines for when she can get back in her house, Hettinger said, “I was asking the police officer and he said possibly tomorrow. Not sure what time and I work from home. Not sure I can get back to my house to work.”
A sink hole opened up in the back of an apartment building off Main Street. Crews returned to the area to clear storm drains and offer water to those in need. A man with a dog in a canoe surveyed the area, the water slowly draining, Baker reported.
“We have had some reports of severe damage. Foundations, 10-foot, 6-foot sections knocked out, so our inspectors will be on site tomorrow morning to assess the damage. A lot of moving pieces to the puzzle right now. The ultimate goal is to keep our residents safe,” Slavicek said.
The mayor said crews will be back at work at 7 a.m. to start clearing debris and surveying the damage.
Shelters are set up at Spotswood High School, including American Red Cross assistance.
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.