By Ellie Wolf
Hurricane Ida, although downgraded to a tropical depression, indeed left very real damage in her wake across New Jersey and the tristate area. Tuesday and Wednesday, after Nixle alerts and warnings that screeched across the cell phone networks from the national weather service and local municipalities, a state of emergency was announced for all 21 counties in New Jersey. All five boroughs of New York were declared the same. Loss of life was reported in both New York and New Jersey as well as one death of a state trooper in Connecticut.
Many homes throughout The Jewish Link’s coverage area sustained damage through basement flooding; some severely. While there were some downed trees, the region thankfully maintained electrical power for most communities.
Some frightening rescue efforts, including one involving the Livingston assistant fire chief who became trapped in his truck at the scene of a rescue, escalated into disasters themselves. In Elizabeth, four people were tragically lost in a flooded garden apartment because the fire station directly across the street was also flooded and they couldn’t get to the victims in time. Hillside, Englewood, West Orange and many other communities had high and rushing water, with some areas reporting over three feet of water in the streets.
Elizabeth Chaverim volunteer Uri Abramov reported that he pumped eight feet of water from the basement of one residence after scrambling early in the day to Home Depot to rent as many sump pumps as he could get. Chaverim emergency vehicles were busy across the New Jersey and New York areas, pumping water from hundreds of dwellings. Yeshiva World News reported that Chaveirim received over 5,000 calls for assistance. They answered as many as they could.
Because Elizabeth and Hillside are very close to Newark Airport, those communities already have a mindset and a communication system established to frequently play host to last minute and urgent needs of stranded travelers. Adina Abramov shared that her husband Uri made numerous runs to the airport in his truck, which sits high enough to safely traverse the flood waters. On the way, Uri said he pulled other trucks out of the mud and commissioned them to help him rescue over 60 people, adults and children, some literally swimming from the terminal trying to get to airport hotels. To give them some comfort and sense of security and safety, he called out to them in Yiddish, pulled them from the water and brought them back to Hillside/Elizabeth. On the way he made contacts to set in motion what would become a home away from home for these soaking wet, exhausted and stranded travelers. Some stayed overnight with the Abramovs, or with others in the community.
In the meantime, other Chaverim efforts were focused on getting stranded families out of their flooded homes via dinghy or other means.
Hatzalah of Union County rose to the task, providing various rescue services. One member of the Elizabeth Fire Department said, “We don’t know what we’d do without them.”
In Englewood, Yeshiva Ohr Simcha grappled with two and a half feet of water after their entrance gave way. Thanks to the Englewood Fire Department and the Chaverim of Monsey and their rescue boats, all 60 of the yeshiva’s students were safely rescued, even as the downtown area and the building suffered severe flooding.
The ShopRite of Englewood reportedly had food floating in the aisles, as water poured from their entrance. By Thursday, September 2, one of the managers stated that he had no idea when they would reopen, though it was learned later that efforts were being made to reopen as soon as possible. A number of ShopRite employees from Englewood were seen working at the Paramus store on Sunday.
Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes told NorthJersey.com that Englewood sustained millions of dollars of damage, and that the city’s Board of Health will play a crucial role in ShopRite’s reopening.
The West Orange area had their challenges with not only flooding, but rushing water currents on residential streets near Golda Och Academy.
Chaim Cillo, chief/coordinator of Hatzalah of Union County, summed up the experience when he said: “The water accumulated so incredibly fast; it was something we hadn’t seen since Hurricane Sandy. Roads were either fully flowing rivers or partially flooded. Although responding to emergency calls in those conditions was extremely treacherous, our responders did whatever it took to safely navigate to our patients, treat them, and ultimately transport them to safety or to local hospitals. They are true heroes.”