MANVILLE, N.J. (PIX11) — When a flowing river doubles in depth, the water has to overflow its banks, because the volume is so intense. That’s what has happened to a number of North and Central Jersey waterways following two days’ straight rain, including Wednesday night’s intense storm.
The result was significant flooding, and the communities of Hillsborough, Somerville and Manville were affected worst among New Jersey towns.
In Manville, the Raritan River had been flowing at about five feet in depth Tuesday, thanks in part to a dry April. By Thursday morning, however, it was 20 feet deep, according to the National Weather Service. That meant that it had flown far beyond its banks, into neighborhoods as far as a half mile away from the normal riverside.
Police shut down Dukes Parkway in Manville because the river ran over it in at least two places. It also flowed for a while over the Finderne Avenue Bridge between Somerville and Manville, which was also shut down overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning.
In the Somerville Cemetery, dozens of tombstones were underwater Thursday, and dozens more were surrounded by it. The river emptied into the memorial park, even though it’s a third of a mile away from the river’s banks and is hilly in parts. The lower lying sections of the cemetery, however, took on water up to five feet deep.
Most cars drove around the river in the sections in which it flowed over roads. One exception to that, however, was Jamie Ayuso, who steered his Toyota pickup through floodwaters on Dukes Parkway East, even though the road was officially closed.
“You get through the barriers, you’ll make it through,” Ayuso said. When asked, however, why he chose to break the law in this case, he replied, “I understand it. [But] there’s one way in, there’s one way out. You’ve got to get groceries somehow.”
Back at his home in Hillsborough, the water had covered his street and driveway throughout the morning. By noon, it had receded, going back into the sewer drains, rather than the other way around, as it had done all night Wednesday.
In the home’s family room, industrial fans were drying out the carpet in an attempt to return conditions to normal. That will take some time, since the home’s garage and the floor of its ground level had been covered in the brown river water for hours.
Since Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the Manville/Hillsborough area has flooded at least eight times, and six of those floods were in the top ten in depth, since recordkeeping began in the late 1930s. Many residents think they know why there has been more flooding in recent years.
“If the water can’t go out into the natural flood plain where it historically has been,” said Hillsborough resident Amy O’Brien, “then it’s going to have an upstream impact.”
In other words, upstream from some flood control barriers put in place in nearby Bound Brook after hurricane-related damage four years ago, it floods more frequently now. The barriers seem to be protecting the areas in which they were built, in and near Bound Brook, but when it rains hard a few miles upstream in the Manville area, the flood waters rise.