* Residents had very little warning
* Worries about Tuesday evening's high tide
By Chelsea Emery and Walden Siew
TETERBORO, N.J. Oct 30 A wall of water, at times
greater than 5 feet high (1.5 meters), swept through three towns
in northern New Jersey early Tuesday, a parting shot from
Hurricane Sandy that prompted the evacuation of a few thousand
people from their homes.
The tidal surge up the swollen Hackensack River started just
after midnight, and there was little time for the unprepared
towns of Little Ferry, Moonachie and Carlstadt to rouse their
roughly 19,000 residents and urge them to seek higher ground.
No fatalities were immediately reported, and rescue workers
evacuated residents from the flood zone to temporary shelters.
One county official estimated 2,000 people were brought to
safety, while others left of their own accord.
"We've been involved since last night with urban search and
rescue with the local folks in Moonachie and Little Ferry. We've
saved hundreds already," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said
in a televised press briefing Tuesday morning.
"It was not a dam or a levee; it was just a natural berm
that was overwhelmed by...an unprecedented tidal surge," a raspy
and haggard-looking Christie said.
The area located in Bergen County was hit between midnight
and 1:30 a.m. and residents had almost no warning.
"From start to finish this wall of water, in some places a
wave much higher than 5 feet, hit this unprepared area. The
full impact was felt in less than 30 minutes," said Jeanne
Baratta, chief of the Bergen County Executive.
She described house-to-house searching by rescue teams using
boats and trucks to move residents to safety at a nearby school
in the town of Teterboro.
"There are probably more than 2,000 residents affected by
this and a lot do not realize they cannot go back home tonight,"
Baratta told Reuters by telephone.
"They are wet and they are cold and they have lost their
homes and their property. It is very sad," Baratta said.
The surge came after the brunt of the storm had passed.
Sandy had dropped below hurricane status just before it hit the
coast farther south in New Jersey on Monday evening.
Residents interviewed by local TV said while they had
experienced some flooding, perhaps ankle deep, in the past, they
were wholly unprepared for what happened.
"We expected this (some flooding) but not as bad as it is
now," said Daniel Novak, a security guard at nearby Teterboro
Airport. "It's madness," he said.
HIGH TIDE LOOMS
The Teterboro airport, operated by the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey, is where many businesses, including
multinationals keep their corporate jets. Its runways, initially
flooded, have started to clear.
An unidentified Port Authority police officer at the airport
said the evacuation from the area was being hindered somewhat by
the relatives of flood victims heading into the area as rescue
workers were trying to get people out.
Initially there was confusion as to what actually happened
with speculation the river had overflowed its banks countered by
early reports from the New Jersey State Police that a levee had
in fact broken in the borough of Moonachie.
While low tides might pull some of the extra volume of water
out of the area, officials were concerned it could all come
flooding back with the upcoming high tide on Tuesday evening,
leaving conditions unsafe for residents.
The lack of power in the area and the coming evening caused
many in the area to seek car chargers for their mobile phones.
"I'm almost out of chargers said Sedat Kukul, 26, a salesman
at a Verizon Wireless store in nearby Hasbrouck Heights, New