Sunday, March 21, 2010

little falls, nj

It was a beautiful day, the first day of Spring 2010. Clear sky, warm temperatures, the type of day we all wait for in the Northeast, especially after the hard winter we just went through. Unfortunately for river towns across this area, the spring meltdown mixed with the rainy season swells rivers and creeks beyond their capacity, flooding homes and devastating thousands.

This was the case for Little Falls, NJ along the Passaic River. This town isn't new to the flooding experience but with the lack of support from first responding agencies, they were left in a lurch, badly unprepared for cleaning up more than 400 homes that were affected.

I started following this story last week and reached out to Emergency Manager, Fred Patelli. Fred is in charge of 3 communities in NJ, covering 1000 homes. I could tell that Fred had been through this before, he knew what was coming and what he needed to help the residents he watched over. The problem was the lack of supplies that were available. Fred informed me that he ordered 1000 clean-up kits from the Red Cross but they could only confirm 500 and they wouldn't be able to deliver until 3 days after residents were let back into their homes. A delay in clean-up only adds to further problems, when things are wet and can't be removed, mold quickly sets in. Knowing their situation, Each One for US All sparked to action.

The goal was to purchase materials and get them to Little Falls when the residents were allowed to return, that way they could hit the ground running to remove the water and clean up what was left behind. This is a tedious task that's compounded by the overall feeling of loss. Tensions run high but you trudge on because you must. I would have loved to supply these people with everything they needed but I knew that doing something was better than doing nothing. My purchases would be driven by my general fund of donations and hopefully new giving by sharing the story.

I was directed by Emergency Management in Little Falls of their most important needs, 4 necessary items, bleach, gloves, spray bottles and contractor bags. I immediately reached out to suppliers for pricing and availability. Our funds enabled us to derive 100 kits and more importantly the ability to get the supplies to those who needed them by Saturday morning, the day of their return. I secured a van, picked up the materials and drove them out to Little Falls by 10:00AM on the first day of Spring.

The arrival into Little Falls was an eerie reminder of the floods in my hometown of Yardley. Floods of this magnitude are usually from heavy rains days before. It takes time for the water to travel from its sources and wreak its havoc. Every flood I've experienced has been on a beautiful day. Ironic I guess, here's a beautiful day, great that you have it because you're going to have to evacuate your home,,, oh and in a few days you're going to have to drag out your destroyed items and place them on your front lawn for disposal. Disasters, for lack of any better word that says it all,,, suck. Believe me, they do.

On our arrival, we were greeted by a wonderful group of volunteers, boy scout troops and residents from surrounding areas were there to pitch in. They quickly formed an assembly line at the back of our van and emptied it in no time, loading their trailer to deliver the supplies. I joined in for a brief time and then went to view the source of the destruction, the Passaic River.

I must admit that I was more than just a little shocked when I got onto a bridge that led into Little Falls crossing the Passaic. I just left an area where the waters receded and people were cleaning up but looking down the river and along its banks I could see at least 30 homes still underwater. I couldn't believe a week after the flooding began that this was still a factor but there it was right in front of my eyes.

The realization that hit me then made it very clear that these people were far from being back to normal. In fact for all we did, we only really scratched the surface. I am hoping with more awareness we will drive more funding for the people of Little Falls, this is a community that is not even close to being out of the woods and one that could really use a break.


Friday, March 12, 2010

here we go again?

As the threat of the rising Delaware River starts to circulate in the area newspapers it's only a matter of time before some familiar fixtures start to show up in Yardley, PA.Today is Friday, March 12th 2010 and all reports once again show that the combination of packed melting snow and heavy rains will provide Southeastern PA with its share of flooding this weekend through Tuesday of next week. News media vans like the one pictured will surely be showing up over the course of the weekend to provide the story to the world about the river-towns and the pending doom for residents.
Being a resident of this community myself and having gone through 3 floods during 2004 - 2006, I can tell you I'm a little on edge. Every past event has taken on a similar pattern that starts with news vans and ends with tragedy. Today, Yardley is different from 2006. There have been many homes elevated in the low lying areas of the Borough but without a solution to control the river water and especially how it interacts with the Delaware Canal, still leaves hundreds in fear of major losses.
I do realize the importance of telling the stories on the news about the floods but being through this before I know only too well what will be next if the river reaches that stage. And that's an added level of anxiety that we can all do without.I will keep you posted as this unfolds and keep my fingers crossed that we don't get to the next level.