South Bound Brook Flood Aftermath

the Delaware and Raritan canal on the day after the flood

The water came down surprisingly quickly, particularly in the canal, whose overflow drains passed the water straight into the river running alongside.

Luckily the flood waters didn't burst the canal wall, so the only damage was restricted to parts of the locks.

Delaware and Raritan canal lock number 11

The Queen's Bridge carried the brunt of the flood, and so the National Guard was called in to seal off the bridge.   The main area of Bound Brook was also sealed off, though when I went over the Guardsman was extremely unmilitaristic and apologetic, and seemed more like Gomer Pyle than a marine drill sergeant.   In the neighboring town of Manville a curfew was put in place to keep out looters taking advantage of abandoned properties.

National Guardsmen talking to guy on Harley Davidson while blocking off the Queen's Bridge

The bridge was closed off for a week or more in order to allow engineers to inspect it for damage.  Someone told me that it had been shifted six inches downstream, and I certainly saw for myself that the riverbed around the pilings had been seriously undercut.   Rocks were dumped around the foundations and the bridge re-opened.

people standing in front of burned out stores on Main Street

Obviously, the stores which caught fire during the flood were also hit hard, in fact they were totally gutted.

burned out stores on Main St

Soon even what remained of these stores was removed.

vacant lot where the burned-out stores used to be
sign pasted on window reading Habitable, repairs necessary

But this wasn't even the tip of the iceberg.   South Bound Brook escaped fairly lightly, but in Bound Brook many, many other businesses and homes were flooded.   Generally they were repairable, but often almost all their contents were destroyed. 

It was the same story in Manville, with one whole area of the town virtually wiped out.   For hundreds of yards along the street destroyed furniture and household goods filled the sidewalks, as people threw out their ruined possessions.

Then I got to see first-hand what I'd seen on several occasions on American television.   Often when some natural disaster comes along, people go straight to that mythical beast "The Government" asking for money.   In this case, loans with very low or even no interest were offered, but angry crowds demand outright grants which didn't have to be repaid.

I don't have any outright problem with government help for innocent victims of unavoidable disasters, but often these disasters are not only avoidable, they're predictable, like hurricanes periodically wiping out very expensive homes built right on beaches in the hurricane zone.

One storeowner in Bound Brook said he wasn't going to rebuild, because this was the third time in 29 years that he'd been flooded.   The reality is that this area is a flood plain, and everyone who's lived here any length of time knows it.   Floods are what happen in flood plains.

sign saying 'Grants or Ghost Town'
sign saying 'The Water Rose, But we did Not Close'

In the weeks following the flood, much air time was given to those noble and brave souls who were determined to rebuild their homes and businesses.

Personally I don't find this hopeless struggle against reality very noble.

The government's now talking about buying people out of their property and turning it into park land, which seems sensible.

For my money, I prefer the sentiment expressed in this sign, which states the facts and leaves it at that.

Hopefully this sign will be around for a while, and act as a reminder.