Tropical Storm Henri dumped rain over parts of New Jersey overnight and through Sunday, causing widespread flooding that prompted authorities to order evacuations in some areas and a number of motorists to be rescued .
Parts of central Jersey, including Middlesex County and Mercer County, were the hardest hit by precipitation on Sunday morning, with some towns receiving almost 9 inches of precipitation as Henri walked up the coast and headed for the New England area.
The mayor of Helmetta, Chris Slavicek, said the floodwaters rose to car doors and entered homes near Railroad Avenue and John Street in the Middlesex County Borough. This area of the city, which the mayor said was home to around 200 people, was subject to a mandatory evacuation order. Other parts of Helmetta are not required to evacuate at this time, the mayor said.
Slavicek, who was at the scene on Sunday, said he believed the water was at least three feet deep and expected it to continue rising. A John Street resident whose house was evacuated said his basement looked like a swimming pool.
The resident, who identified himself as John, said he had lived in Helmetta since 1984 and it was the worst flooding he had seen.
“I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight,” he said.
Melissa Gibb, another John Street resident who had to evacuate, said borough officials had not informed them when affected residents could return home.
“Either they don’t know or they don’t tell us,” Gibb said as she tidied her things in the trunk of her car outside the municipal building in Helmetta. Some of the evacuees from Helmetta were sheltering near Spotswood High School.
In the nearby town of Jamesburg, borough officials are providing shelter to residents who have been moved to City Hall or John F. Kennedy Elementary School.
Matt Ungermah was woken up at 6:45 am this morning by Jamesburg firefighters knocking on his door. He didn’t know what was going on, but when his feet hit the ground, they were underwater. Ungermah, her seven-year-old twins and their dog Molly were then evacuated to the elementary school, where they stayed for a few hours until they were picked up by a friend.
Two months ago, Ungermah had just moved into his house on East Church Street, a small two-story house with beige siding.
“We worked hard to make it a home,” he said, but added that everyone was safe and had flood insurance.
Ungermah said the water on Church Street, which abuts Manalapan Creek, was deeper than the water in his home. Flood waters are also high elsewhere in the city.
“Please avoid the roads if possible,” the Jamesburg Facebook page says. “Most of the roads are impassable.
On Sunday, four units of the Plainsboro Fire Company spent the morning helping motorists stranded on flooded roads in Middlesex County Township where nearly 7 inches of rain fell at 7 a.m. on Sunday.
In Newark, firefighters evacuated 23 people following a foundation collapse early Sunday at a Taylor Street residence because of Henri. No injuries have been reported, but residents as well as neighbors of an adjacent residence have been urged to leave as a precaution before the next storm set to start on Sunday, city officials said.
Eleven other people had to be rescued by city firefighters from an airport shuttle on Sunday morning that was trapped in the floodwaters of Toler Place and Frelinghuysen Avenue.
In total, Newark officials said Sunday afternoon that they had rescued 86 people in 11 separate incidents related to the storm. Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara has called for people to continue to stay away from flooded streets.
“During today’s thunderstorms, it is essential that drivers seriously heed our warnings by not driving on flooded streets,” said O’Hara. “While the Newark Police and Fire Department will respond to every call, the more water rescues required will only reduce our response times. We respectfully ask drivers not to risk getting stuck in their vehicles because they have chosen to drive through flooded areas. “
Gov. Phil Murphy said on Sunday afternoon that flooding remains the biggest concern as Henry continues north and encourages people to stay home.
It was “largely a rain event, a big rain event,” Murphy said of the storm, although it was “less than we feared.”
Still, “it’s a good day to stay home,” the governor said.
The rain started to fall on Saturday evening and continued until Sunday.
Giselle Diaz and her family were driving on Wilson Avenue in Newark around 11 p.m. Saturday when they were caught off guard by the rising waters.
They got stranded near the intersection of Amsterdam Street and had to be rescued by boat, Diaz said on Sunday morning as she returned for the Toyota van.
Heavy rains and flash floods continue to be “the main danger” for New Jersey, particularly in southern and central New Jersey, the NWS said. This will move to northern New Jersey and east-central Pennsylvania on Sunday afternoon.
Additional precipitation in the state will range from 1 to 6 inches, with parts of northern New Jersey potentially receiving up to 10 inches of rain through Monday, the NWS said.
Several flash flood warnings were in effect at 7 a.m. Sunday as travel across much of central and the New Jersey coast was discouraged, the NWS said.
This is a developing story. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
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Michael Sol Warren can be reached at [email protected].
Payton Guion can be reached at [email protected].