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N.J. Tries To Wash Away Floyd

September 21, 1999

MANVILLE, N.J. (AP) _ The smell of disinfectant and furniture polish wafted through the air as residents of central New Jersey tried to scrub away the mud-strewn legacy of Hurricane Floyd.

Sections of Manville looked as if a tornado _ not floodwaters _ had sucked furniture, carpet and books from their homes, depositing them along sidewalks in piles 8 feet high.

``This is incredible,″ Cheryl Volker, 42, said as she sorted through belongings that had bobbed about for days in her temporary indoor pool _ her living room.

Floyd dumped so much water on central New Jersey that more than a million residents were likely have to endure a fifth day today without safe water to drink. Floodwaters have swamped a water treatment plant in Bridgewater that wasn’t expected to have water pressure or pumping equipment. Officials fretted about fire protection.

Rain fell again today in central and northern New Jersey, with as much as an inch expected by evening. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the area but said the threat of additional flooding was confined mainly to small streams and creeks.

Other flash flood watches were posted today in southeast Pennsylvania, northern Delaware and extreme northeast Maryland.

Even the relatively light rainfall unsettled some New Jersey residents.

In the northern New Jersey town of Lodi, residents were wary. Floodwaters 5 feet deep ruined the finished basement of Gouid and Yatna Vakharia’s home on Garibaldi Avenue last Friday. This morning was the first time water wasn’t coming up through the basement floor, Yatna Vakharia said. But then it began to rain.

``I’m scared because of structural damage,″ she said. ``I don’t want this house to fall down because this is all we have.″

``Even an inch is worrisome. It doesn’t make me feel too good,″ Alan Blitzer of Bound Brook said of today’s rain.

But in general across the Northeast, the flooding produced by Floyd had receded Monday, revealing the storm’s long-term legacy of misery.

Christina Hussein said she is ready to take her children to a hotel. ``We have no clean clothes left,″ she said while picking up free bottled water at an Edison distribution site.

Folks in northeastern Virginia were also worried about clothes. Hard-hit residents of Franklin, 50 miles southeast of Richmond, sifted through boxes of the Red Cross’ colorful shirts and shorts.

More than 1,000 people attending a community meeting in the school auditorium heard local and state officials assure them that everything was being done to provide relief.

Still, little can be done until the Blackwater River entirely recedes, Mayor Jim Councill said. The water dropped a couple of feet Monday but isn’t expected to completely fall until the downstream Nottoway River also drops.

None of Franklin’s 8,700 residents would predict when they might get a good look at the damage. Up to 2 more inches of rain were expected today.

Officials in the suburbs of New York City groaned at the news that more rain was headed toward the waterlogged Northeast _ and then began stacking sandbags.

``Everybody’s teeth are on edge about rain,″ said Paul Shew, village manager in Ossining, N.Y., where the storm did some of its worst local damage. ``We’re all preparing for the next storm.″

Employees at the Sharon Saving’s Bank in Darby, Pa., were just trying to recover from Floyd. They returned and found tables and desks that had floated from room to room in 5 feet of water. A thick layer of mud covered the office’s two-week old copy machine.

``I found Friday’s payroll sitting intact on top of my desk,″ said Shirley Martin, a network administrator. ``We just came in to see what was salvageable. There’s not much.″

Jeff Tittle, director of New Jersey’s Sierra Club, said overdevelopment in flood plains across the Northeast has been the chief reason why losses from Floyd have been so high.

``After a flood, everyone blames nature and says it’s an act of God but it’s not,″ he said. ``Flooding is an act of man.″

Back in Manville, it took four National Guardsmen to lift Joe Bonsignore’s antique breakfront into a garbage truck, which crumpled it into wooden planks.

``I can’t be upset, there’s nothing I can do,″ he said. ``But, you got to remember, this isn’t garbage. This is people’s lives.″

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