PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Wednesday was supposed to be the first day back to in-person classes for students in Paterson, but school buildings are still being repaired from storm damage.
CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge took a tour of the worst areas with elected officials during the afternoon.
“I looked back and I was watching the river just get higher and higher,” said David Draper, who now lives in a shelter.
Draper was one of 300 Paterson residents rescued by boat from their home after Ida‘s flash flooding caught him by surprise.
“Thank God for the fire department and everyone who helped us,” Draper said.
Draper has been living at a high school-turned-Red Cross shelter on Grand Street for the last six days.
“We had almost 50 families at our emergency shelter, but there are people that are not coming to our shelter. They are afraid of looting. They don’t want to leave their homes,” Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said.
“The major disaster declaration is what’s going to help Mr. Draper and others get back on their feet,” Menendez said.
CBS2 toured the worst-hit neighborhoods on Paterson’s north side. Piles of furniture were seen discarded in front yards full of mud.
Cellphone video shows Adreon Clair try to rush to salvage his car from rushing water.
“I don’t have insurance on this. I just bought it a couple days ago. So, yeah, I lost this one here,” Clair said.
A local steel business owner was told his insurance won’t cover damage from a natural disaster.
“We’re basically out of business or working on getting back in business. We have so much damage, I don’t even know if we’re going to be able to make it happen,” said David Friessen of Dave’s Architectural.
Many Paterson school buildings also sustained water damage, forcing 28,000 students to start the year remotely. One 10th grader said the past 18 months have been one thing after another.
“Having things change from pandemic, where we had to do things virtually, it was kind of hard for me to learn. And then now this flooding and all the things from the storm messing up circulation of things,” Jesse Nieves said.
“Most of our schools needed to be the water extracted, the building sanitized,” Superintendent Eileen Shafer said.
“We not only got water from under our doors and through our drains, but we got it from some of our roofs. So the roof leaks and that’s why we needed a couple of days,” added Neil Mapp, chief officer of facilities and custodian service for the Paterson School District.
School officials said classes are set to resume in person on Monday.
The boil water advisory has also been extended for Paterson. There are drinking water distribution locations around the city.
WATCH: Local Leaders Tour Storm Damage In Lodi, New Jersey —
Meanwhile, in the next county over, Congressman Josh Gottheimer and local leaders toured storm damage in Lodi on Wednesday. He went door to door, letting residents know how to get help from FEMA.
“People don’t have insurance, flood insurance. They weren’t in flood zones. They don’t have coverage. We gotta help. We’ve got a lot of people who lost all their stuff. They’ve lost all their possessions, everything,” Gottheimer said. “We’re just trying to help people through a very devastating time.”
The congressman says it’s important for residents to apply for assistance as soon as possible.