(HOBOKEN, N.J.) — Across the Hudson River from storm-battered New York City, residents in Hoboken, N.J., waded through near waist-high water with their children and their belongings.
“Our basement got completely flooded,” said resident Susie Zuckerman. “The water started gushing through the garage door in our building. We’re doing the best we can do. We’re not going to leave — there’s nowhere to go.”
Superstorm Sandy’s massive storm surge flooded the streets of Frank Sinatra’s birthplace, where the water has receded 18 inches in the last 24 hours. The usually bustling downtown Hoboken area is now dotted with debris and broken storefronts, as the sound of generators churns.
Over 50,500 people live in the two-square-mile city, and many residents said they were told not to expect power for up to 10 days. In the meantime, Hoboken City Hall was set up as a shelter.
The communal area of one apartment building was jammed with its residents all charging phones, making toast and playing with children as Halloween pumpkins lined the room. City councilman David Mello said he was weighing his options about whether to have his family leave.
“I might get my family out of here, but I’m gonna stick around. This is obviously unparalleled,” Mello said. “The biggest concern here is we might run out of gas for the generators. We only have more to last 48 hours. If that runs out, we’ll have to evacuate.”
The National Guard arrived on Tuesday night to help with search and rescue. Army personnel used boats to help get to people trapped in their apartments.
“I’ve been waiting to leave for three days,” said a woman named Rosie as she piled into the back of an Army truck with a smile on her face.
At another apartment building on the corner of First and Harrison, a mother held her baby as they peered out of their third-floor apartment, waiting to be rescued.
Hoboken is also home to many New York City commuters. Samantha Bennet, 26, works for an Internet start-up in the city called Passenger and left Hoboken Wednesday with her husband Steve Bennet after their apartment building flooded, and went to nearby Jersey City to stay with a friend.
“There was about eight feet of water in our basement,” Bennet said. “It has receded. We were actually pretty lucky…every basement apartment has at least four to six feet of water.”
Bennet said her apartment was on the third floor, so they weren’t affected by flooding, but that they didn’t have power or hot water. Although the storm surge came up Monday night, she didn’t evacuate until Wednesday because only basement and ground floor apartments in Hoboken were ordered to evacuate.
“It was like an exodus, people with backpacks and bags walking out of Hoboken,” she said.
Bennet said the standing water is starting to smell like oil from submerged cars on the streets, and sewage because the sewer system was backed up.
“People were using half of fan covers to clean out the gutters so the water would go into the sewer,” she said. “They were also using rakes, but they kept breaking … and as soon as they got the leaves out, more would come back in.”
In the wake of the widespread damage in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday issued an executive order to postpone all Halloween celebrations in his state until Monday. For those residents living on the New Jersey coastline, Christie described the damage as “unfathomable” and “unthinkable.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire