Hurricane Irene leaves a badly flooded New Jersey

By Christine Kearney

FAIRFIELD, New Jersey (Reuters) - Raging waterways caused dramatic flooding on Monday across New Jersey, as the state's rivers and creeks rose from the force of Hurricane Irene.

Fairfield, a town 25 miles west of New York City that is surrounded on three sides by the curving Passaic River, was in danger of becoming an island, said Armando Fontoura, the Essex County sheriff and the county emergency management coordinator.

Surging from Sunday's powerful hurricane, the Passaic was swelling and had not yet crested, he said.

"The worst is yet to come for us," Fontoura said. "This is going to be very, very bad for the next couple of days.

"You are not going to be able to get in or get out," he said.

The river could rise as high as 23.6 feet, said Fairfield Deputy Police Chief Anthony Manna, breaking the record of 23.2 feet set in 1903 and topping a more recent high of 22.9 in 1984.

Around Fairfield and neighboring Wayne, the water flooded homes, highways and surface streets. Some residents waded into the chest-high water, others paddled canoes and still others sat on their stoops watching the water rise.

"This is the worst flood we have ever had," said Mike Chiafulio, 52, outside his mother's house. "I imagine it's going to flood our first floor."

Locals fled to motels, including Gail Dupas, 36, of nearby Little Falls, who left home on Friday ahead of the hurricane.

"It's devastating. You have to grab what you can, anything that's irreplaceable," she said.

Further south, along the shore, Atlantic City casinos were allowed to reopen at noon on Monday,

Caesars Entertainment Corp, which includes the hotels and casinos of Caesars, Harrah's, Bally's and Showboat in Atlantic City, was still calculating how much the storm cost in lost revenue, said spokeswoman Jennifer Weissman.

"Having to close our casinos the weekend before Labor Day in Atlantic City is significant to our business," she said. "However, we are fully expecting a very successful Labor Day weekend."

In Millburn and Short Hills, an overflowing Millburn River flooded buildings and damaged a water treatment facility that serves about 45,000 customers in Millburn, Maplewood, West Orange and Irvington.

The company told customers to boil their water before using it, although many residents said they were getting little or no water in their pipes at all.

(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Matthew Goldstein in Millburn and Beth Gladstone in Atlantic City; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Jerry Norton)

Editor's Picks