Paterson families still in shelters more than five days after Ida; FEMA relief beings

New Jersey

Ida damage in Paterson, N.J. (PIX11).

PATERSON, New Jersey — Some families in parts of New Jersey remain in an emergency shelter more than five days after floods from the remnants of Hurricane Ida inundated their homes. But Monday, a disaster response team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived at the shelter around noon on Monday to help provide assistance to get the families back on their feet.

David Draper said that he’s lived for years in the Northside neighborhood of Paterson. His street, Bergen Street, abuts the Passaic River, running perpendicular to it. What happened to him and his fiancée on Thursday as the river rose is what ended up sending them to the shelter, and is something Draper said he’ll never forget.

“All of a sudden, two feet of water” was in his apartment, he said, describing floodwaters that rose quickly, as the river, which is usually about 150 yards from Draper’s home, headed to a cresting level well above the height of the floor of his house.

“Next thing I know,” Draper continued, “it’s up to my waist. Thank God there was a Paterson Police Department boat outside.”

Loriam Ortiz has also been at the shelter, housed in the International High School gymnasium, for days.

She was the first of about two dozen people still at the shelter to meet with the FEMA team.

Ortiz told PIX11 News that her home’s flooding had been traumatic.

“It was crazy, it was sad,” she said, as she showed cellphone video she’d recorded of the foot of water that had covered the first floor of her house, as well as video of a completely flooded basement.  

She said that her 40-minute meeting with FEMA team members was helpful.

“They said they will send us some money out if I qualify,” she said.

Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh also dropped by the shelter on Monday to check on residents, and on the disaster assistance process.

“Hopefully, these individuals can recover what was lost,” the mayor said, “they can get compensated, and they can get rental assistance, which is very important.”

He described conditions for hundreds of families in his city, the third largest in the state, as being “almost apocalyptic.”

Still, he added, the federal assistance eligibility, designated by President Joe Biden on Sunday, was a ray of hope that’s available to most residents.

“I want to make it abundantly clear,” Mayor Sayegh said, “irrespective of whether you have insurance or not, you are eligible.”

A full guide and application for assistance from FEMA is here.   

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