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More flooding expected as powerful rain, wind storm heads our way

Little Falls, N.J. residents fear worst ahead of another major storm
Little Falls, N.J. residents fear worst ahead of another major storm 02:32

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- Yet another storm is carrying the threat of widespread river flooding to New Jersey. 

Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in the Garden State that goes into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday. 

"That call is based on both the severe weather forecast that may require statewide coordination by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, as well as the recent rainfall saturation, particularly the Passaic [River] and Raritan River areas, which were flooded in December," Murphy said. 

Murphy warned of heavy rain, strong winds and potential coastal flooding. 

"Clearly, if you don't need to be on the roads, please avoid driving until the storm passes," Murphy said. "Folks, please do not underestimate this storm. Particularly given its intensity will be in the darkness of night, through the middle of the night tomorrow night through Wednesday morning." 

Gov. Phil Murphy briefing on upcoming rain, wind storm 20:48

Mayor Christopher Vergano of Wayne posted on his Facebook page that he and the mayors of Pompton Lakes and Lincoln Park have asked the New Jersey DEP to open the Pompton Lakes floodgates preemptively before the expected rainfall hits. Late Monday, however, the DEP said it's not necessary to open the flood gates.

Charles McDougald and wife, Tamesia, are still dealing reeling from the flooding from the end of last month at their home that sits on the Passaic River in Wayne.

"The water this last time round was over the my mailbox," McDougald said.

Pictures show the mailbox, flooded driveway, and McDougald's car on Dec. 30.

When asked if the car is functional, McDougald said, "I don't think so. They had the doors open today and they are still trying to drain it."

"Every time it rains, I get that anxiety. Do we need to get out?" Tamesia McDougald said.

Many in New Jersey hoping Mother Nature doesn't do what it has done many times in the past 02:35

What to expect from the storm

The First Alert Weather Team has declared a Red Alert for Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, and a flood watch is in effect for Tuesday evening into Wednesday. 

The storm is expected to bring between 2-4 inches of rain, which would be troubling any time, but with the ground already saturated from recent storms, our risk of flash flooding is much higher. Additionally, areas that saw significant snow can expect rapid melting due to the rain, which could also contribute to flooding concerns. 

Cities and towns in the Passaic River and the Raritan River basins face a particular concern -- many have only just begun the recovery process following recent flooding. 

The storm will begin to impact our area after noon on Tuesday, bringing rain and strong winds, with gusts up to 40 mph. The storm will hit peak strength from roughly 5 p.m. Tuesday until 4 am. Wednesday. Flash and coastal flooding are of particular concern, along with beach erosion. 

By the morning rush Wednesday, the worst of the rain will be over, though some lingering showers will be possible, and the risk of residual coastal flooding will grow. Rivers will start to rise, and the flooding concern will increase. 

Preparations in hard-hit Little Falls

Only three weeks ago, Little Falls residents used boats to float home after epic rainfall forced the Passaic River to rise beyond its banks and fill streets

Lifelong resident Bob Dumbrowski said he has already lived through 19 floods. 

"First flood was 1968. That's when I learned how to swim," Dumbrowski said. 

December marked the first time he evacuated. Before he did, he moved his possessions and lost nothing. His neighbors weren't so lucky. Dozens dealt with extensive damage and face the threat of flooding again. 

"It has been challenging for us here in Little Falls," Mayor James Damiano said. 

Damiano said DPW just finished cleaning up from December's flood over the weekend. 

"This past Saturday, we had DPW in overtime. They just completed removing final things people had disposed of," Damiano said. 

Little Falls is already prepaing for another round of water taking over neighborhoods. 

"The DPW has been clearing all of the catch basins to remove any blockages," Damiano said. 

Township officials determine what assets are this time, while keeping fingers crossed. 

"We're hoping that the forecast is off a little bit," Damiano said. 

Unfortunately, Bryan Ramsey with the National Weather Service said this is a high-confidence forecast, in part because of preexisting conditions. 

"As I talked to you about, the higher stream flows in the river. They're 95% of average. The soil moisture is 70-90% of average," Ramsey said. 

Conditions are similar to those leading up to December's flood event, with one exception: Snow. 

"We have a lot of that snow pack still out there, especially farther north in the Hudson Valley and in New Jersey," Ramsey said. 

That snow will melt, and add more water to the 2-4 inches of rain forecasted to pour down. 

"This is up there with one of the two or three other winter rainfall events, in terms of quantity of moisture that we're getting out of the warmer atmosphere and warmer ocean waters," New Jersey State Climatologist Dr. Dave Robinson said. 

Robinson said he's concerned about the Passaic River and Raritin River basins. 

"It's quite unusual, what we've seen since we entered December," Robinson said. 

Robinson and Ramsey both said Tuesday's storm could lead to flooding comparable to December. 

"I just feel sorry and heartbroken for my neighbors to have to go through this again," Dumbrowski said. 

Another storm, the threat of another round of water flooding Little Falls. 

The mayor is asking residents that have hot water heaters or furnaces that can be removed to get them out of harm's way. That way, they can immediately have heat and hot water when they return after the flood. 

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