Montclair overwhelmed by Ida floods — thousands of dollars raised to help overnight
By LOUIS C. HOCHMAN
Montclair has barely begun to dry out from the historic flooding that overwhelmed its streets Wednesday night, trapping cars in roadways and sending water gushing into homes and basements — but already, thousands of dollars have been raised to help those hurting.
As of 10 a.m. Thursday, nearly $5,000 had been collected by a fundraiser Councilman Peter Yacobellis posted to Facebook overnight, to help residents and businesses recover from what he called "the worst flooding crisis for our town in modern times."
"Please give what you can, knowing funds will be dispersed quickly to local organizations who can meet the immediate, urgent needs as they become clear — including providing shelter, food and possibly damage repair assistance for residents and businesses in need," Yacobellis wrote on the fundraiser page. "I will be consulting with our nonprofit leaders and providing regular updates on how funds are being spent. I will continue to update this as the needs are better understood and we know what we’re working with in terms of dollars raised."
Flooding devastated the Northeast Wednesday night as the remnants of Ida — the deadly storm that made landfall in Louisiana Sunday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane before weakening — moved through the area. Passaic Mayor Hector C. Lora told NJ.com one person in his community had died in connection with the storm. Multiple tornadoes touched down in central and southern New Jersey, in some cases ripping apart homes.
Mayor Sean Spiller said on Facebook Thursday morning there were no major injuries in the storm. First responders had made several rescues from flooded vehicles, he said.
Cleanup crews would continue working on debris and downed trees Thursday, he said. About 120 people were on a Montclair Fire Department assistance list for help with flooded basements.
Residents with vehicles that were abandoned and towed could call the Montclair Police Department non-emergency number at 973-744-1234, he said.
Four school buildings suffered damage, the mayor said. His message didn't specify which ones, but said school officials were working to assess the damage.
Storm-related rubbish and trash pickup schedules would be announced shortly, Spiller said.
A flood warning for areas including Montclair remained in effect until 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Rainfall totals from the National Weather Service estimated more than 6 inches in West Orange during the storm, and nearly 8.5 inches in Newark.
In Montclair Thursday morning, about 450 PSE&G customers remained without power as of about 8:12 a.m., according to the utility's online power maps.
Flooding remained a serious issue on several nearby highways, with portions of the Garden State Parkway in East Orange and the New Jersey Turnpike in Newark still underwater, with multiple lanes closed, according to the state's 511 service.
Photographer Neil Grabowsky, who works with Montclair Local as a freelancer, said he became trapped in his studio under the Fullerton parking garage, as several feet of water on the first level of the deck immersed cars and SUVs.
Resident Erin Kelly said she hadn't seen flooding so bad in Montclair since 1999's Hurricane Floyd. She saw at least three or four cars abandoned at the corner of North Willow Street and Claremont Avenue Wednesday night.
"Dozens of people attempted or did drive through, with some not making it far up the hill," she wrote to Montclair Local. "North Willow looked like a river with tires, refuse and various other items floating down towards Claremont. One of those stranded was out doing food deliveries for a local restaurant still — he came onto the porch to figure out a way to get home. ... He said the water was up to his knees, and he was approximately 5'10" - 6'."
Thursday morning, several area businesses were scrambling to figure out how to move forward after the storm, with many announcing on social media they were closed or delaying their openings. The YMCA on Park Street closed as well. The Dry Goods Refillery on Bellevue Avenue said late Wednesday night on Facebook it was postponing its planned grand opening to assess damage and protect its customers and staff.
The Human Needs Food Pantry wrote on Facebook that it would be closed Thursday because of the storm damage: "Our phones are down and we have lost our computers." It urged people to check back next week.
Montclair State University closed Thursday as well.
Amid a steady stream of photos to local social media groups of roads and facilities overwhelmed by floods Wednesday night and Thursday morning, misinformation spread quickly as well. Essex County officials Thursday morning dispelled a rumor animals had escaped from the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange.
"There was no loss of power and all of our animals and animal areas weathered the storm well and remain safe and secure within the facility," county Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said in a statement released early Thursday.
All NJ Transit rail service except the Atlantic City Rail Line remained suspended as of 8 a.m. Newark Light Rail was also suspended. Buses, HBLR and River LINE service were operating but with significant delays and cancellations.
"If you do not have to travel, please don’t," the service wrote on its social media accounts.
Gov. Phil Murphy, who declared a state of emergency for the storm Wednesday night, on Thursday urged residents to stay off the roads.
"It is not safe to drive," he wrote on social media. "Our crews are working to clear and open roads, and we need everyone to stay off them so crews can safely do their job."
Montclair Local has reached out to Montclair police, seeking an update on the extent of the damage authorities have assessed so far, and is awaiting a reply.
More images from Wednesday night
Débora Hostins, who works at Samba Montclair, saw flooding not only in the restaurant, but throughout the parking garage to its rear, just off Park Street. She took video of waters rushing into the garage, reaching up alongside several cars still parked there.
Edwin Lopez, on Grove Street near Mt. Hebron Road, said it appeared the nearby river had crested and flowed onto Grove Street and Lasalle Road.
"Houses on [the east] end of Grove and those on Lasalle have to be taking on water but no way of knowing how bad," he wrote to Montclair Local Wednesday. "MPD stationed a car on Mt. Hebron but cars are still driving through."
Joni De Los Santos shared with Montclair Local a video by her brother, Jed Paul De Los Santos, taken near the Shell gas station on Bloomfield Avenue, near Pine Street.
"The flooding was rising to the point they had to stop [at] Shell and wait it out," she wrote. "Thankfully the drains by the fire department were fast and they were able to drive home back home down the street at around 9:45 p.m. The Montclair Post office near Pathmark had drains spewing out water."
Edmond Francois reported seeing three cars stuck in the area of Chestnut Street and North Fullerton Avenue. He said the Montclair Township Fire Department was on the scene.
Andrew Garda, a reporter for Montclair Local, saw heavy flooding on North Willow Street and Claremont Avenue. He said he tried to venture out into the area, but the water was already ankle-deep.
Esther Friedman, at the corner of Orange Road and Hillside Avenue, was among those suffering basement flooding. She shared this video:
— Includes reporting by Talia Wiener, Jaimie Winters and Andrew Garda