New Jersey Floods

April 30, 2007

Paul Bryant-Smith, UCC Disaster Response and Recovery Coordinator for the Central Atlantic Conference, is gathering information from UCC members in communities impacted by the recent flooding.

Paul Bryant-Smith, UCC Disaster Response and Recovery Coordinator for the Central Atlantic Conference, is gathering information from UCC members in communities impacted by the recent flooding. Paul is also in contact with other denominations and FEMA by participating in the conference calls that provide information for planning recovery efforts. Additionally, the UCC is sending to Church World Service $6,000 from the One Great Hour of Sharing special fund, Emergency USA to assist with immediate relief efforts. Following are the stories of two survivors, and a report from CWS.


Gary Cuffie knew when it was time to get out after voluntary evacuations were recommended in Bound Brook two weekends ago. "My family said we shouldn't go yet, but I said we had to go. I knew it'd get worse," Cuffie said. It got much worse. Severe flooding devastated parts of the town during a powerful nor'easter in mid-April. Cuffie and his friend Colby Pabey sat outside a shelter at Bound Brook Presbyterian Church Thursday afternoon recounting their evacuation stories. Pabey's was similar.

"When the water started coming up, we grabbed what we could grab and we left," she said. Both of their families had to wade through water up to their waists as they evacuated their neighborhoods. Pabey said she and her boyfriend found a barrel, filled it with some of their belongings and their dog and then floated it between them as they walked out. Cuffie wrapped up his baby daughter and carried her as he guided his wife and two other daughters out of the area. "I saw water shooting up out of manhole covers," he recalled. Pabey said water was coming up in the toilets and sinks in her home. Once in town, she said she could not believe how bad the flooding had gotten. "I have never seen that much water, not even in a swimming pool," she said. As her family waded through the streets, they saw fish and snakes in the water. Cuffie said he found large dead catfish inside several of the businesses he has helped clean out.

The Bound Brook area received more than 9 inches of rain from the storm, which sent the two local creeks and the Raritan River out of their banks and quickly into the town. Hundreds of homes and businesses suffered damage. Some had up to 8 feet of water inside. Many have been condemned. It was the second major flood to hit the northern New Jersey community in 10 years. The remnants of Hurricane Floyd flooded the area in 1990. Cuffie lived through that and said the latest flood was not as bad. Now sheltered at the Presbyterian church, both Cuffie and Pabey said they were grateful for the church's kindness, the excellent food and the friendly church members and American Red Cross workers staffing the facility. They said they were humbled by how generous the community and surrounding towns have been with their support.

CWS report

Situation: Greater than expected flood damage prompted President Bush to declare Bergen, Burlington, Essex, Passaic, Somerset, and Union counties federal disaster areas. The storm impacted 13,500 New Jersey homes, caused at least $180 million in damage and is labeled by government officials as the second-worst rainstorm in the state’s history. Both individual and public assistance have been authorized. During the nor’easter that dumped a deluge of rain along the eastern seaboard, thousands were forced to evacuate and seek emergency shelter. A stretch of sunny days allowed a chance to return to homes and survey damage.

Vulnerable communities watch: Heavily impacted New Jersey is a diverse state, where nearly a third of the population is made of African-American, Hispanic or Asian persons. Minority communities and immigrant communities in particular, may be skeptical of efforts of official assistance. It is also a state prone to economic extremes, with well-documented income gaps between the working poor’s wages and the financial demands of living in New Jersey, which may be problematic as communities aim for recovery.

CWS Response: Church World Service has provided material resources since the storms to flooded communities in New Jersey.

  • Bound Brook, N.J.: 210 CWS Blankets, to the Presbyterian Church of Bound Brook
  • Paterson, N.J.: 60 CWS Blankets, 105 CWS School Kits, 100 CWS Health Kits, 94 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, 104 CWS Kid’s Kits, to Catholic Charities of Paterson

How you can help

1. Pray for people who live in communities affected by floods.

2. To help those affected by disasters you may, send gifts payable to your congregation marked for “Emergency USA” with the request they be sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.


3. Send gifts, made out to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion “Emergency USA”  to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources; Wider Church  Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.


4.  Make a secure online gift.

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