The river was expected to hit 11.9 feet in Little Falls around 1 a.m., almost 5 feet above flood stage. As a result, Paterson officials on Saturday closed the West Broadway, Temple Street, Arch Street and Haledon Avenue bridges that cross the river in the northwestern part of the city. The Passaic County Office of Emergency Management said the bridges were expected to remain closed for at least a portion of today.
The swollen, roiling river was expected to hit 11.9 feet in Little Falls around 1 a.m., almost 5 feet above flood stage. And predictions were that it would sustain high depths well into the week. Paterson officials said they do not expect floodwaters to fully recede for several days and said their next concern is how the flooding will affect storm sewers and the sanitary sewer system.
Chief among the Bergen communities hit by flooding Saturday was Fair Lawn, where Emergency Management Coordinator Wendy Demeraski said she expected the crest along her borough about dawn. Several residents on flooded roads had voluntarily evacuated, she said.
But in Hillsdale, where the Pascack Brook jumped its banks, and Lodi, where the Saddle River crept into several neighborhoods, crews were removing debris, washing down muddy streets and assessing the damages as the floodwaters receded. And municipalities that have historically seen bad floods, including New Milford, River Edge and Oradell along the Hackensack River, experienced minimal flooding.
Bridges have been swamped along the Passaic and major highways and access roads are flooded out - and the Great Falls in Paterson is roaring as the river continues above major flood stage for at least another couple of days.
The malls in Wayne have been turned into islands among a sea of flooding. The damage from the flooding is likely in the millions as homes and businesses have been engulfed in the rising flood waters.
Gov. Chris Christie had declared a state of emergency for Northern New Jersey earlier this week in anticipation of the flooding in the area, and the National Guard is providing assistance to local law enforcement in evacuating low lying areas and rerouting traffic away from the hardest hit areas.
Flooding has been a concern along the Passaic and Pompton Rivers for years, but there are no easy solutions. It's a function of geology and population density along the flood plain. Some homeowners have been bought out by the state and federal government to restore wetlands and the flood plain, but to do so along the entire Pompton and Passaic Rivers would run into the billions of dollars. The region simply gets more water than the watershed can handle during major rainfalls, particularly after snowpack melts.
To give some sense of perspective over how much water is flowing over the Great Falls, I took
these photos of the Great Falls back in 2009 when the river was flowing at a moderate level.