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Some New Jersey Residents Say Flooding Is Making Them Physically Sick

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- The rain was still coming down Wednesday night and for some people it was both a disaster and a health hazard.

The rivers are already above flood stage in several areas in New Jersey and those levels are not expected to crest until Friday in some spots. Frustrated homeowners have been forced to pack up what is left of their lives as waters rise again.

A flood warning is in effect for much of New Jersey. Click here to see the latest warnings and watches. The rain that began Tuesday will continue to fall in the saturated region through Thursday.

The thought of more rain or another flood makes Paterson resident Haydee Ocasio sick -- literally.

"I can't breathe. It feels like my chest is going to explode," she told CBS 2's Hazel Sanchez.

Ocasio, who has asthma, is struggling to live in her family's home. Irene, flooded the basement and first floor. The water has receded, but the problem is growing.

"The first two days here with the heat, you couldn't live here. You couldn't live in this basement," Ocasio's sister, Vanessa, said.

"My body's achy and I really can't breathe around here," Ocasio said.

"I think as time goes on and you have mold growth it's going to be a more significant problem for immuno-suppressed and individuals who are sensitized to mold," said allergist Dr. . Maryann Michelis.

There are crushed lives in Little Falls as crews try to get rid of the destruction Irene left behind before more rain moves in.  Amid the rubble left out on the street are pictures, toys, mementos and prized possessions.

1010 WINS' Terry Sheridan Reports From Little Falls


"It's people's lives, their money. They have to start all over again," Jack Zahn told CBS 2's Christine Sloan.

Sitting in the middle of her devastated living room on top of buckled wooden floors, Sue Bartole was just in shock.

"We should just try to get out of here soon so we don't see anything," she said.

Despite the misery, Sandra Prell -- with her entire living room and kitchen on the street -- said she plans on staying.

"I was born in this house, I'm going to die in this house. They will have to put me underwater and float me away. I will never leave," she said.

Little Falls Mayor Michael DeFrancisci has had enough and wants the federal government to dredge the Passaic River in a bid to prevent flooding.

"Until someone gets serious in Washington, and FEMA takes notice, nothing is going to get done." DeFrancisci said. "I mean, how much more can people take? I spent four days down here with people going through wrecked belongings, lives shattered. There's no words left. It's time for the federal government to do what needs to be done here."

Also in Little Falls, Raffaele Lagonigro is trying to remain calm while looking at all of the debris in front of his house, but he's got bigger things on mind.

"My wife's going into labor tonight, she's getting induced.  So we have to get out of here and with all this that's going on it's insane.  It's supposed to be a happy time, and right now, she's stressed out, she's crying," he told CBS 2's Kristen Thorne.


Paterson's Emergency Operations Center is still up and running, a leftover from the flooding that began last weekend. Officials fear the continued rainfall means it will be needed again in the very near future.

Cars drove through standing water on streets that until recently were underwater.  It was a minor hassle compared to the major flooding of last week.

1010 WINS' John Montone reports: Residents Weary Of More Flooding Along The Passaic 


Hackensack resident Angela Burke is trying to take the possibility of more flooding in stride.

"It's scary, you know, really scary," Burke said. "But it's nature, so what are you going to do?"

The Passaic River is expected to hit major flood stage late Friday and into Saturday. If it does, it will put the city's bridges at risk. It will also continue to sink the already exhausted municipal budget. So far, Paterson is at least $50 million in debt after Irene.


In Passaic, Kevin Pullman was spraying mud from the driveway of his business, which sits on River Drive. The Passaic River is rising once again and flowing right behind his building.

WCBS 880's Levon Putney In Passaic


"Trying to clean up although I don't if we're going to clean up. Don't know if we're coming back here. This is the third flood in five years," he said.

He told WCBS 880 reporter Levon Putney that at least five feet of water got inside and the dozen or so sandbags stacked outside the door were no match for the water.

"I don't know where to start," he said. "At this point, waiting for the insurance adjuster."

The Red Cross said Tuesday it was getting ready to provide emergency shelter for 2,000 more people, if needed.


In Hasbrouck Heights, the DPW used pumps to empty runoff out of storm drains.  That procedure caused backups and lane closures near routes 17 and 46, CBS 2's Tony Aiello reported.


Meanwhile homeowners whose homes were flooded during Irene have been seeking relief from the federal government. More than 15,000 residents have filed claims with FEMA, and some $3 million in aid has been disbursed.

Others are hoping for some sort of buyout.

WCBS 880's Sean Adams reports: Residents Frustrated With Passaic River Flooding


Little Falls
A sign in front of a home in Little Falls, NJ - Sept. 7, 2011 (credit: Sean Adams/WCBS 880)

The Senate is working on an additional $5 million for buyouts. Residents say that's a drop in the bucket. Some are in line to have their homes raised, but the process has been slow.

Governor Chris Christie has praised President Barack Obama and the federal response to Irene thus far.

"It's working well, I've said that publicly any number of times, and the credit goes to the people who are doing it," Christie said. "So the credit first goes to the president of the United States, for putting the right people in place who are obviously executing very well. It goes to Janet Napolitano, 'cause it's on her watch as Secretary of Homeland Security that this is happening."

The buyout measure is expected to be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

How are you doing when it comes to getting back to normal after Irene? Share your story in the comments section below.

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