By Karen Zautyk
The banks of the Passaic River in Lyndhurst was the place to be Sunday afternoon, as post-storm watchers gathered near the DeJessa (Nutley-Lyndhurst) Bridge to watch the roiling waters.
Cars with “sightseers” constantly came and went in the parking lot adjoining the riverside apartment building there.
Gusting winds and intermittent drizzles did not faze the onlookers. The sight of the Passaic, running at a height and a speed most had never seen before, was almost hypnotic. And a bit frightening.
If the river was this high, and the current this swift, already, what would happen at high tide? Or when the predicted storm surge hit?
“Remember,“ said watcher John Plisko of Lyndhurst, “ this is just the storm runoff.“
Plisko was standing with Tom Marrone of Lyndhurst and Richard (last name not given) of Belleville, and we assumed they were buddies who had come down to the banks together. Not so. They’d met about 10 minutes before. “But we’re flood brothers now,” Plisko commented.
He also offered a bit of information we filed away for future storms. Up on Rt. 17, which is infamous for flooding, the White Castle was open. And you could get four cheddar burgers for $2.99.
As we traveled down Riverside Ave. in Lyndhurst and onto North Arlington’s River Road, both occasionally paved with mud and rain-sodden leaves — and both at various points still closed, requiring detours — we saw more folks heading for the river. Or at least trying to get near it.
At the intersection of River Road and Arlington Blvd. in North Arlington, the route was blocked by a good-sized lake extending across the road and into the park.
At 1 p.m., the waters had receded somewhat and the park lawn that extends to the riverbank was visible. “Two hours ago,” said John Ryan of North Arlington, you couldn’t see the grass.”
Ryan was there to view the spectacle with his wife, Esmeralda, and their Maltese, Poochie.
That scene was repeated along the route, as individuals and entire families gathered at street corners to gaze at flooding or at fallen trees.
At the Arlington Blvd. corner, we also met two evacuees from Wallington — Jessica Tolve and Rob Garrison — who had come to stay with family in Lyndhurst.
They had been driven out of their home at 9 a.m. Sunday morning. The storm had departed, but the waters kept rising. “We went out voluntarily,“ Tolve said, “dog in hand and all.” She was rescued first by a first-responder boat, which took her to a military truck that could drive through the flood. Garrison said he walked out.
At the foot of Laurel Ave. in Kearny, the street was blocked by an enormous tree that had been torn up by the roots and had smashed into a car parked across the way. Kearnyite Tony Marinaro, who lives around the corner, knew exactly what time it fell: 1 a.m. on Sunday.
“I was watching the Weather Channel for the 1 a.m. update,” he told us, and then I heard the ‘Boom!’ ”
That tree downed wires and cut power to the neighborhood, but it didn’t cut the spirit of Carlos Ablanedo, on whose Taurus it had landed. Ablanedo, who told us that while the car was a loss, his house had not been damaged, was busy clearing branches and other storm debris from his lawn and driveway. When we left, we think he was actually
doing some minor landscaping.
Sadder though, was what we found back in North Arlington. At the Bagel Bistro on
River Road, just north of the Belleville Pike, owner Lee Moonwoo and a couple of his
employees were doing their best to clean out debris the river had left behind.
You could see the floodlevel mark a foot or so above ground on the outside of the shop. You could also see a mess of mud and debris and fairly substantial water clogging the adjacent driveway leading down to the Passaic.
Lee, a Rutherford resident, had driven to the Bagel Bistro business at 6 a.m. Sunday and found it still flooded. Since he couldn’t gain access, he went home and returned at
11 a.m. And the cleaning efforts started. He and his crew had been at it constantly for
several hours when we spoke to him.
“Luckily, we have power,” he said.
We said, “Really? Do you have coffee?”
And he brought us one large, milk no sugar, and refused to accept payment.
And, as we drove away, he said, “Come back tomorrow and you can have a bagel, too.”
Mr. Lee is one class act.