Family after family walked up to Gov. Murphy with photos of their waterlogged homes. Others invited him inside, CBS2's Christina Fan reported.
Everyone, including kids, wanted the governor to understand the magnitude of the disaster.
"We are going to stay with you and we're going to help you figure this out, alright?" Murphy told them.
The Raritan River runs alongside the Birchview Garden Apartments. Many families were asleep when it flooded early Thursday morning.
By the time Mimi Arias-Caraga realized something was amiss, her car and back stairs were submerged.
"We went out on the other side because ... this is the back door, so we have to go from the front ... and the flood was already here at my waist," she said.
"To watch my car float away before my eyes, it just was very traumatizing. It's over there in the woods," said Yasmin Hernandez.
Dozens of people rescued by boat and tractor returned to find their homes soaked, their belongings ruined and the power still out.
Restoration crews estimate it will take weeks to get to all 75 damaged units.
"I've seen a lot of other hurricanes. We've done Sandy, but that was houses by the coast that you're expecting to get damaged. But houses that are out here, you are not really expecting this kind of damage," said Marcelo Thaares.
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If hearts weren't heavy enough, families also learned one of their neighbors died while trying to get home during the storm from his job.
"He got caught up in the current when they were walking on the sidewalk on River Road right here," said Mayor Brian Wahler.
The state's death toll from Ida now stands at 27.
Gov. Murphy pledged he's working hard and speaking with President Biden to secure federal aid.
FEMA says right now, damage assessments are being made in the hardest hit areas of New York and New Jersey, and they hope to be done by the end of the day Saturday.
After that, FEMA says the states will aggregate the data and submit a request to the president for a major disaster declaration.
Once that happens, FEMA can deploy help.
CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report.
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