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Ida In New Jersey: Receding Flood Waters Reveal Damage, Destruction Suffered In Somerville

SOMERVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Rescuers in New Jersey have been working around the clock since the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit, unleashing raging flood waters and powerful tornados.

The storm has been deadly. At least 23 people have been killed across New Jersey, and several people in Somerset County were still reported missing Thursday night.

The devastation led Gov. Phil Murphy to request a major disaster declaration.

While waters were receding Thursday, some streets were still flooded and cars sat abandoned in the middle of the road almost 24 hours later.

Homeowners, meanwhile, got a clearer idea of the damage and the cleanup process got underway.

"We're not a flood zone, so we don't have flood insurance so we're out of pocket on everything that we just renovated," Somerville resident Jenna Ross told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

In the tight-knit Somerset County borough, emotions were as high as the devastating flood waters were on Wednesday.

"I was [in] chest-high water," Ross said.

PHOTOS: Hurricane Ida Remnants Batter Tri-State With Historic Rain, Tornado Reports

Ross and her husband have been clearing out their newly renovated home.

"It just kept coming and coming, and like, we went upstairs, and like, it just like, one step, two steps, three steps, it was just, like, unreal," Ross said.

Leaving their dinner dishes on the table, they raced upstairs with the dog. The light of day revealed the damage and destruction suffered all over Somerville.

Ruined belongings sat near the curb outside the newlyweds' home.

"Our living room set. I had just gotten stuff out of my parents' house, so a lot of my childhood stuff is out here. I'm a teacher, so all of my teaching stuff is gone," she said.

Neighbors boarded up busted windows and tossed the contents of their lives to the curb.

Block by block, soaked pieces of roofing and wood lined residential roads that took on up to eight feet of water from the nearby Peters Brook, where a car remained submerged.

"Somerville, New Jersey, really needs help," Ross said.

It's not just property that was tossed; there are memories, pictures and even a prayer card mixed in the mess.

The Hunkeles were trapped in their home as Ida came raging through.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Pamela Hunkele said.


John Hunkele, a 45-year-old father, says it was the scariest night of his life.

"Last night, it was like a real emergency situation because we couldn't get out. The fire trucks came. There were two firemen in the backyard waist deep in water. They're like, 'You gotta get out now,'" he said.

It became even more terrifying when it sounded like a bomb went off next door.

"When the house blew up, it was just chaos. We were just freaked out, and we were worried about our house blowing up," John Hunkele said.

Surveillance video captured another house explosion in Rahway.

SEE IT: Rahway House Explosion Caught On Camera --

In both cases, the families had already evacuated because of flooding.

Two homes in hard-hit Manville that were overwhelmed by flooding burst into flames.

Nearby, there were dramatic rescues from second-floor windows with rescue crews passing the ladder to people stuck inside.

In a chaotic-looking Cranford, rescue boats arrived for people trapped in cars and homes by the overflowing Rahway River. More than 200 people needed help.

In Elizabeth, when the river crested, it sent water about 10 feet high, stranding many in their ground-floor apartments. Four people in one apartment complex died.

Many say because of all the damage, they cannot stay in their homes for the foreseeable future and they're desperate for help from FEMA.

The Ross family says they'll be staying at a hotel for a few nights.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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