NEW MILFORD, New Jersey (PIX11) — Rain all day Thursday and into Friday morning resulted in flooding that was so severe in some North Jersey communities that rescue crews were actively evacuating people from just after sunrise to just before sunset. The floodwaters still had not receded after nightfall. 

Bel Habib, a longtime resident of New Milford, described how he and his family had watched the waters of the nearby Hackensack River rise Thursday night through Friday morning. 

“At 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.,” he said, “we started the mad dash to move everything upstairs, and here we are.”

Where he is is Columbia Street in Hackensack.  It, along with about a dozen streets in the riverside communities of New Milford and Oradell, were engulfed by the Hackensack River when it overflowed its banks.

It caused rescue crews to have to evacuate 15 people from eight homes. They also had to pull a grandmother and grandchild from their vehicle as the waters surrounded it. Two other drivers also had to be rescued from fast-rising waters.

Also, dozens more homes that didn’t get flooded inside ended up getting flooded in their basements. Andrea Acevedo found that out firsthand. Ironically, she’s had to live outside of her New Milford home while it’s being renovated from extensive damage it suffered during floods from Hurricane Ida early last fall. She’d recently gotten her furnace, water heater and electrical equipment replaced, in her crawl space under the house. When she went to check on it on Friday, it was not a pretty sight. 

“All ruined,” she said, as she looked at a crawl space filled to the ceiling with floodwaters. “This is absolutely devastating.”

Even residents whose homes weren’t flooded directly fear serious indirect damage. 

“What’s happening,” said homeowner Nicholas Pipito, describing floodwater activity in the neighborhood, “is it goes through sewer system.”

He said that the waters end up coming into homes that way. “And they get water in their basement.,” he added. 

Some New Milford residents pointed out that they’re located just a half-mile or so below the Oradell Dam and reservoir. They called on it to be managed differently. 

“They should look at the forecast,” said Habib, the Columbia Street resident. He said that the dam often keeps the reservoir near capacity.

Instead, he said, “They should pre-emptively lower the water level, and prevent it from unloading on us.”

Suez North America operates the Oradell Dam and reservoir system. PIX11 News reached out to the company for comment but has not yet gotten a response.