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State of emergency in New Jersey for heavy rain and flood risks, particularly along Passaic River

Floodwaters cover roads in Union County, New Jersey
Floodwaters cover roads in Union County, New Jersey 01:35

PATERSON, N.J. -- A state of emergency went into effect Tuesday for a storm that's set to bring heavy rain and flood risks to New Jersey, particularly along the Passaic River where residents are still reeling from last month's flooding. 

Gov. Phil Murphy issued the state of emergency for all 21 counties across the Garden State. 

Mayors of Wayne, Pompton Lakes and Lincoln Park requested floodgates on Pompton Lakes Dam be opened ahead of the storm to prevent flooding downstream. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection denied the request, saying opening the dam would not prevent flooding in this case. 

"Based on the science associated with how these storms play and how the dams then behave, they feel the science is on the side of not doing that," Murphy said about the decision Tuesday morning. "That doesn't mean it's going to be an easy road tonight and tomorrow morning, but the folks at the Environmental Protection team feels pretty strongly that that's the right way to go, and we're going to see."

Watch Alecia Reid's report

New Jersey residents bracing for the worst as storm hits Tri-State Area 02:33

Schools affected by weather conditions

Some schools in New Jersey announced changes due to the weather.

Ridgewood Public Schools announced they will be on a two-hour delay Wednesday due to the inclement weather.

Paramus Public Schools will also be operating on a two-hour delay Wednesday. Additionally, Champions Before-School care program is cancelled, and elementary lunches will not be delivered. Early Childhood Classes will follow the two-hour delay.

Paterson Public Schools, meanwhile, will have an early dismissal Wednesday. Students will be dismissed at 1 p.m. All after-school activities have been cancelled.

Passaic River begins rising

As rain started falling Tuesday afternoon, the Passaic River was already rising, and people were preparing for the worst.

In fact, one family who didn't want to go on camera told CBS New York's Jennifer Bisram they are stay in a hotel Tuesday night in anticipation of having no power and no heat, just like the last storm in December.

PSE&G crews in New Jersey are on the ready for another storm expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain, and some businesses in the area were closed Tuesday with signs on their doors reading, "Closed due to impending weather."

"We're prepared for flooding, high winds. We're preparing from every aspect from street closing to tidal rivers ... Certainly the winds is gonna be a factor tonight in conjunction with the high tide, and all the rain that is washing up through the streets and from the north," Passaic Fire Chief Patrick Trentacost said.

Neighboring towns are also preparing. Some schools even closed early, fearing a repeat from last month's powerful coastal storm where families were trapped in their homes, and streets, cars and basements were flooded.

"This is bad area, so it does flood pretty regularly. And we got water in our basement in the school, caused a lot of problems, so we're just hoping it's not gonna happen again," private school teacher Don Anderson said.

In addition to rain and wind, melted snow from over the weekend is also a concern and could add to existing water levels.

Officials in the town of Wayne say the request to open flood gates early was denied, but all emergency management offices are on call, including the state's marine unit.

"I caution people, when you see barriers up, do not drive around them. You're just gonna get stuck in your car," Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano said. "We have our emergency management team. We've opened our mobile command center. We have people to evacuate you in 5-ton trucks, but last month, we just evacuated over 100 people from their houses and from motor vehicles, so the key is to get out early and protect yourselves and protect your family."

Watch Jennifer Bisram's report

Storm has some New Jersey residents on edge after recent flooding 02:36

At the library in Fairfield, sandbags were made available for residents in need of a way to secure their home and property from flooding.

In the meantime, New Jersey residents like 90-year-old John Radits say they're fed up with all of the flooding.

"We don't need any more floods in this area," he said.

Officials warn people to stay off the roads, stay home if you can, and prepare to evacuate just in case. The fire chief says if you lose power, don't use a generator inside your home.

Preparing in Paterson

CBS New York's Christina Fan reported from Paterson, where the mayor is warning residents about the potentially dangerous conditions. 

Watch Fan's report

Storm threatens to flood communities still cleaning up along Passaic River 05:41

Families there are still exhausted from a storm three weeks ago that flooded homes, cars and businesses and shut down schools. Now, residents fear that may play out all over again.

Floodwaters destroyed most of an auto repair shop's inventory, and workers are worried this storm system may sweep away what little they have left.

"That one, I was ready to send it to Miami. I lost everything," one worker told Fan. "FEMA, nobody, give you nothing, nothing, nothing. Right now, I've got my two hands and that's it. It's crazy."

In anticipation of the storm, the mayor declared a citywide emergency also starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday. 

"We are working with the fire department and police department to split their divisions to each side of the river, just in case it does flood that high," Paterson Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Troy Ayers said. "Right now, we are looking at the crest of 9.3. The previous storm, it was 8.4. So we are preparing for the worst."

A flash flood warning was issued at 2 p.m. and certain streets will be closed. 

"We also will have a Red Cross-run shelter for the next five days, 24 hours a day at 60 Temple Street," Ayers added.

The mayor said he will be in constant communication with the superintendent to see if schools will be impacted in the coming days.

All too familiar in Little Falls

Officials worry the incoming system will exacerbate inclement conditions not just in Paterson but also in Little Falls. 

Back in December, residents there had to use boats to float home after rainfall forced the Passaic River beyond its banks. 

CBS New York's Tony Sadiku heard from one resident who said keeping tabs on the river has become routine.

"We keep watching the gauges, online there's gauges. So we keep watching those and just make sure it's at an OK level," she said. "It is what it is, water is water, you know, it's nature, you can't do much about it and you just hope for the best."

The mayor of Little Falls says his crews just finished cleaning up from last month's flood, and now they're preparing all over again.

"The DPW has been clearing all of the catch basins to remove any blockages," Little Falls Mayor James Damiano told CBS New York. "We're hoping that the forecast is off a little bit."

Meteorologists say, unfortunately, this is a high-confidence forecast, in part because of preexisting conditions. Rivers are already swollen, and a lot of the snowpack in northern New Jersey is expected to melt.

Stick with our First Alert Weather team for the latest track of the storm. You can watch us live throughout Tuesday evening on CBS News New York and early Wednesday starting at 4 a.m.

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