‘It’s all trashed everywhere’: Residents of New Jersey community assess the damage after Storm Ida

It has taken 24 hours for the floods around Manville to recede.

At first glance, a place like this doesn’t look too bad, but it’s deceptive.

The mud lining the roads is the only sign that, block after block, all of this community was metres under water.

Physically, financially, psychologically, this extreme weather is testing communities and families.

Outside one house, I met the Shahs – grandparents, their two adult sons and their grandson, a young boy called Moweed.

It was he who wanted to show us inside.

“It’s all trashed everywhere. You can see the sofas. Everything,” he said, showing me around their living room.

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The family only moved here eight months ago. The house is gutted. The living area, which is raised a couple of metres from the ground was itself under more than a metre of water.

Moweed Shah shows Sky News around his house in Manville, New Jersey. It was damaged in Storm Ida
Image:Moweed Shah showed Sky News around his flood-damaged house in Manville

“We couldn’t see that window yesterday,” Zeb Shah said, pointing to an upper floor window of his parents’ house.

“You go inside you see four feet of water inside. We are standing 15 feet down right now,” he said.

Mr Shah runs a limousine business in New York City. His cars are parked outside and all will have to be written off.

As you’d expect, the small town spirit here is strong.

We passed Jeffrey Leiton with a pickup truck full of bottled water.

“I feel we have a responsibility as a community and no one can be better than the other,” he said.

“You see another person being affected so I just realised that Walmart was closed so I stopped in Edison (a neighbouring town) and filled the car with water.”

Passing in her car, Danielle Ord said she is checking up on neighbours.

“Our family friend, the mother and her daughter, the house completely to the roof submerged. I mean, between all the explosions, I even felt my own house shake.”

A Manville Police Officer stands guard near the remains of a house that exploded due to severe flooding from Tropical Storm Ida in Manville, NJ., Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. Pic: AP
Image:Some houses in Manville were ruined by gas explosions due to severe flooding. Pic: AP

“Explosions?” I asked.

“Yeah there were a couple of house explosions,” she said.

Sure enough, around the corner we found two of a number of houses in the town which have been levelled. The floods caused electric and gas explosions. Thankfully everyone here had evacuated.

This small New Jersey community was right underneath Storm Ida as it swept northeast across America, dumping records rains as it went.

This state suffered the worst death toll, with at least 25 dead. At least 62 died across eight states as Ida pushed north and east this past week.

Ralph Macaro outside Macaro's Iron Works in Manville, New Jersey after Storm Ida
Image:Ralph Macaro said he is devastated after seeing the storm damage
Macaro's Iron Works was ruined by STorm Ida
Image:Macaro’s Iron Works is a fencing company that is now ruined

Up the road is Macaro’s Iron Works, family run for two generations. It’s a fencing company that’s now ruined.

“The whole business, everybody. We have got over 80 employees over here, you know. So just devastated,” owner Ralph Macaro said.

“Is anything salvageable?” I asked.

“No. Just memories. That’s it. That’s all you’re gonna save now.”

Inside, it’s obvious that they will have to start again. Mr Macaro’s father Giuseppe Macaro founded the business and we found him clutching awards won at a recent business trade show.

“We’ve built it once, we gonna do it again,” he said, emotional.

Back outside the Shah house, young Moweed wanted the final word.

“I feel very sad for my grandparents. I really wish I can buy them a new one but I don’t have any money.”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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