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Jersey floods leave rail cars floating, homes in road

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Tue October 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: President Obama is set to tour damaged areas of New Jersey on Wednesday
  • NEW: Houses end up in the middle of highway; rail cars float on turnpike
  • NEW: Some flood victims were barefoot; mothers carried diaper bags and babies as they fled
  • The affected area is in Bergen County near New York City

(CNN) -- Ralph Verdi has been working for nearly 30 hours.

You won't hear him complain. He says yes and no ma'am when a reporter stops him to ask him a question, even though he's helping lead the rescue effort of three New Jersey towns that are drowning.

Verdi works for the police in Little Ferry, a town of about 10,000 people that was flooded Tuesday as water kicked up by Sandy barreled over a natural berm.

It took only about 30 minutes for Moonachie, a town of about 2,700 residents in Bergen County along the Hackensack River, to be nearly 6 feet under water. It's also bad in another town, Carlstadt.

Superstorm Sandy's toll: Mounting deaths, historic destruction, stranded residents

The surge floated rail cars onto the New Jersey Turnpike as railways were littered with trees and power lines. There are houses in the middle of Route 35, and much of FunTown Amusement Pier in Seaside Park is washed out.

Massive waves wash over New Jersey homes
Cleaning crews work in Manhattan's financial district following damage from Superstorm Sandy on Monday, November 12. View photos of New York's recovery. Cleaning crews work in Manhattan's financial district following damage from Superstorm Sandy on Monday, November 12. View photos of New York's recovery.
Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy
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Photos: Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy Photos: Aftermath of Superstorm Sandy
Homes damaged along New Jersey coastline
Superstorm aftermath from every angle

A woman waved and shouted for help from her front porch as rescuers scrambled to save people in Bergen County. Hundreds of people have been whisked from rising water in their homes, many who climbed into boats that have navigated the murky water.

Some wore pajamas and were barefoot. Mothers carried diaper bags and crying kids. Thousands more remain stranded, local officials said, in as much as 6 feet of water.

"We're in search-and-rescue mode," said Jeanne Baratta, chief of staff to the Bergen County executive.

There are some reported injuries, but no one has learned of any deaths, Baratta said.

Gov. Chris Christie was as blunt as he's ever been.

Christie told reporters that he didn't "give a damn" about the presidential election, which will happen in a week. He said his only concern was making sure New Jersey residents were safe.

Sandy's devastation is "beyond anything I thought I'd ever see," he said. "The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable."

New Jersey officials are "nowhere near" allowing many residents to return to their homes in flooded areas, Christie said.

Chris Christie: Jersey Shore devastation 'unthinkable'

He plans to fly Tuesday to visit one of the most ravaged towns, but it's unclear if there will be a place for the plane to land due to all the damage.

Christie also said that every rail line in the state has been severely damaged.

The governor added he's confident that President Barack Obama and the federal government will work with New Jersey and that the state will rebuild. Obama will tour damaged areas of the state Wednesday, the White House said.

While Christie spoke, rescuers in Moonachie charged up to second floors of homes, with helicopters hovering overhead.

State police and the National Guard are helping. Rescue workers from Virginia are expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon, said Baratta, the Bergen County official.

"The rescue workers -- they're phenomenal," she said. "They're pulling together."

A mother in Bergen told CNN that she and her two children were about to go to sleep when they heard a loud noise, looked outside and saw people running in the street.

Google maps Sandy flooding, power outages

In an instant, water started rushing into their home. They didn't bother to pack anything up but yelled for each other and struggled out the door.

The superstorm knocked out power along the Jersey City waterfront. CNN iReporter Marc Anderson, a photographer, said the power in his apartment building went out at 9 p.m. Monday and the basement filled up with about 8 inches of water. The sewers backed up, he said, and the smell was terrible. The neighborhood grocery store was a madhouse, he said, but everyone was just glad to be safe.

Back in Moonachie, The Bergen Record spoke with Jan Gulino, who lives in a trailer park. She was among about 100 people at the Bergen County Technical High School shelter. She said she was watching TV at 1 a.m. when neighbors knocked on her door to tell her that her car was in deep water.

Together, they managed to push the car to higher ground. A rescue crew arrived and ordered her out of her house because there was kerosene in the water.

So Gulino grabbed her boxer, Max, and got on a boat, along with six neighbors. She was taken by truck, then bus, to the high school.

She's just happy to be with Max. "I wasn't going to go anywhere," she told the paper, "without him."

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CNN's Tom Cohen and Brian Todd contributed to this report.

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