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As National Guard comes to the rescue, so do NJ residents -- with power outlets

Hoboken, N.J., became a virtual island when Sandy forced 500 million gallons into the city. NBC's Katy Tur reports.

HOBOKEN, N.J. –  One of the most densely populated square miles in the U.S. is still full of floodwater and still out of power, and residents are starting to run out of patience with post-Sandy life.

“They’re saying we might not have power till Monday,” said Jessica Van Binsbergen, 28, a Hoboken, N.J., resident, who was waiting for a ferry to Manhattan. “There’s a lot of flooding where I live. I’m headed to a friend’s.”

Van Binsbergen, her cat in tow, was standing in a line of hundreds of people  – all of whom were eager to get out of Hoboken, a densely packed city of about 50,000 people along the Hudson River. Water up to four feet high remained pooled in some areas of the city, and flooded many of the basement apartments that line the streets; on Wednesday, National Guard vehicles arrived to assist with rescues and delivering meals to stranded people.


A Hoboken police officer estimated his department had performed “a couple hundred” rescues since the storm hit.

Gary Hershorn / Reuters

A woman makes her way through the floodwaters in Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday.

‘It’s been nonstop,” the officer, who said he wasn’t authorized by the city to speak on the record, told NBC News as he and another officer, both wearing high rain boots, waded over to an apartment surrounded by deep floodwaters to help a woman with a liver condition. “We started doing rescues 28 hours ago and haven’t slept.”

Three of Hoboken’s four firehouses were flooded by Sandy, Battalion Chief Louis Moyeno said.

Gary Hershorn / Reuters

A man carries his wife through the floodwaters in Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday.

“This is the only operational firehouse left,” he said, standing outside Hoboken Fire Department, Engine No. 2 on Washington Street. “The water has receded, but there is no power to any of the other firehouses, and there’s water damage.”

Omar Vicioso, 31, said Sandy poured water into his basement, and left cars floating in his street. He was eager to get back to his work at a boutique store in Manhattan, he said, but wasn’t sure when that would happen.

“All the cars were scattered around,” he said. “I don’t have a car -- I usually take public transportation -- but obviously that’s not happening. With my phone down, the PATH [train]down, the buses not working, it’s kind of a waiting game.”

Craig Ruttle / AP

David Bagatelle, of Hoboken, N.J., walks from his residence through high water in Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday.

A couple blocks away, William Mirlas, a contractor with a water removal company, was pumping water from a Hoboken resident’s home.

“He had four to five feet [in here],” Mirlas said. “When I opened the door to his room, it was just like a movie: The water came in from outside, just like a river.”

In addition to the man’s furniture, his wallet and clothing were soaking wet, Mirlas said.

While the National Guard was assisting local crews with rescue efforts, residents tried to keep from going stir-crazy.

 

Craig Ruttle / AP

A dog named Shaggy is handed from a National Guard truck to National Guard personnel after the dog and his owner left a flooded building in Hoboken, N.J., on Wednesday.

Amid the darkness that encased nearly all of Hoboken, there was one bright spot: One neighborhood had power, and its inhabitants were happy to share.

“Re-charge your morning!” read signs posted around 11th Street. “Free coffee and power outlets!”

 

In other parts of Hoboken,  loud sump pumps reverberated down streets where fake cobwebs and other Halloween trimmings decorated darkened, flooded storefronts and homes. But on and around 11th Street, residents seemed  to be having a block party rather than making a post-hurricane clamor for electricity.

 

John Makely / NBC News

Rey Erney, right, plugs his phone in on a neighbor's front steps along Eleventh street.

John and Jeanne-Marie Scura, who live on Garden Street near 11th, have four children  – but by Wednesday morning, a group of about 15 kids had settled in comfortably into their home, happy to take advantage of their TV and computer.

Related story: Amid storm, a desperate search for power

“We never lost power,” John Scura said. “People were asking us if they could charge their stuff because they saw our lights on. People brought food [in exchange].”

Their electricity luck didn’t extend to their local pharmacy, however, where the Scuras were trying to get antibiotics for one of their kids, who had strep throat.

Dale Shulmistra, his girlfriend, and their dog came to hang out and recharge their cell phones from a few blocks away. “The generosity –   the thoughtfulness of these people is fantastic. I’ve seen a couple of them before, talked to a couple before. It’s nice to hear other people’s stories [from Sandy].”

The power party attracted dozens of people throughout the day on both sides of the street, where power strips hung from extension cords out of first-floor windows.

“Do you guys need some coffee?” Theresa Howard, 47, who put up the fliers  and organized the event yesterday, yelled to people as they walked down the street.

“Someone said this restores their faith in mankind. There’s just so much bad stuff going in , this is just such a simple thing, it was all we could do,” she told NBC News. “People are really thankful … Even a police officer said, ‘This is what makes Hoboken so great. This is what it used to be.’”

Meanwhile Wednesday, President Barack Obama toured New Jersey's battered coastline, saying the federal government was "going to be here for the long haul" for that state and 15 others dealing with destruction and power outages after Sandy, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered that Halloween trick-or-treating be postponed in his state until Monday due to unsafe conditions.

Sandy killed at least 47 people in the U.S. after having killed at least 71 in the Caribbean.

Superstorm Sandy made landfall Monday evening on a destructive and deadly path across the Northeast.

 

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