MANVILLE, N.J. (PIX11) — One year ago this week, the intense rains and floods from the remnants of Hurricane Ida left more than 40 people dead in the tri-state region, thousands of homes damaged, and more than 100,000 homes without power. The majority of the fatalities — 30 souls — were in New Jersey.
On the eve of the storm’s anniversary, some people in the Garden State say they’re still trying to get their homes back to a liveable condition, and they’re calling on state and federal authorities to provide more help. They also say that more can be done to protect New Jersey from more frequent floods that are expected in years ahead due to climate change.
Yaritza Zapata is one of the hundreds of residents of Manville who were flooded out of their homes when the Raritan and Millstone Rivers overflowed their banks and engulfed the entire eastern side of town.
Now, some of the walls of Zapata’s home have cracks from the damage it suffered when the floodwaters surrounded the house.
“This happened because the wall had collapsed,” she said as she led PIX11 News on a tour of the as yet uninhabitable home on Wednesday. “The wall started dipping because there was nothing holding it up,” she said.
“Our flood insurance gave us $114,000,” she continued. “We got to fix the foundation, which cost us $70,000 to fix.”
“The rest of the money that’s waiting for the fixing of the home is not enough,” she said.
Groups like the New Jersey Organizing Project advocate for families like Zapata’s. It helps lobby for more aid for families in the Garden State and flood prevention, like the $115 million Port Monmouth Flood Management Project, from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is nearing completion.
Noreen Staples is an activist in the NJOP’s Ida Task Force.
“There are other mitigation issues we can do,” she said in an interview, “because we can’t keep doing this. Floods are getting closer, they’re getting stronger, and people are getting kicked out.”
The executive director of the land use advocacy group New Jersey Future, Peter Kasabach, agrees and pointed out in an interview that the parts of New Jersey that flooded the worst a year ago are now in severe drought. He added that with climate change, the state needs to prepare for more wild swings in climate conditions: periods of drought followed by severe flooding.
To cope with that, Kasabach said, the state government needs to prepare.
“It has control over a lot of major land use decisions,” he said. “They’re held up right now. If these rules could move forward, it would say that there are places in New Jersey where we shouldn’t be developing, or we have to develop differently.”
Meanwhile, Zapata has put her home up for sale. She said that she’s hoping an investor will be able to take over efforts she’s started to reclaim her home but has had to decelerate due to high costs.
For its part, the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy has introduced its $228 million Tropical Storm Ida Action Plan. It admits that the allocated funds aren’t nearly enough to fill the need.
It has set up two public hearings for residents to reflect on what efforts are needed going forward.
The first meeting is on Sept. 8 at Manville High School. The second is Sept. 12 at NJIT in Newark.