Rescue operations have begun in the lower Lake Hiawatha area following the failure of the retaining wall protecting the neighborhood from the waters of the Rockaway River, Parsippany Police said.
With the Rockaway River expected to crest Monday at 3 a.m., officials are releasing pressure on the reservoir dam by releasing some of the water, Mayor James Barberio said in a statement Sunday night.
"If you are in a flooded area in lower Hiawatha, leave immediately," Barberio said. "The water will rise very fast, much faster than it has been. If you need assistance getting out of a flooded home, call 911 now and we will send rescuers to you."
"Rescue and recovery is assisting people out of their homes," Police Spokesman, Patrolman Earl Kinsey, said.
Some of the residents are coming to the township's evacuation staging site at Lake Hiawatha Elementary School. The center was put into action to help residents displaced by Hurricane Irene. It is not intended to be a shelter or sleep space, police said. The staging site is a transitional waystation where Parsippany residents can check out various resources such as hotels to find safe shelter.
The center is staffed by members of the Par-Troy Emergency Medical Service, the Community Emergency Response Team and other local rescue personnel, along with citizen volunteers. Running the effort is Barbara Ievoli, the township's director of human services.
Ievoli and other volunteers worked and waited throughout the storm with few residents showing up for assistance. Town Councilman Michael dePierro stopped by to visit and offer encouragement to the exhausted volunteers Sunday afternoon.
The quiet broke after word of the failed retaining wall and the police department's call for an immediate evacuation.
Bob and Jackie Messinger came to the center with their daughter Laura, 16, and their two dogs, Dexter and Bu.
"Our house is under water," Bob Messinger said. "Hopefully, they can help us."
Apparently, the center volunteers did help. The Messingers walked out of the building a short time later with information on a hotel that accepted pets as guests.
"It's expensive," Jackie Messinger said, "but it's worth it so we can all be together."
While the evacuation staging center has not been overrun by residents asking for help, a steady stream of people from lower Lake Hiawatha began making their way to the school after the retaining wall failed and water flowed into people's homes and cars.
"The river continues to rise," Kinsey said. "Rescue crews are going door to door to inform residents of the danger. If they come to your home, please answer the door promptly."
If anyone needs assistance, call 973-263-4300 to let responders know.
He added that no vehicles are permitted to be parked on any street near the flooding area to ensure rescue vehicles can gain access in and out of the area. Also, vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the roadway on Lake Shore Drive, Minnehaha Boulevard or Hiawatha Boulevard from North Beverwyck Road down to the river is prohibited until the flooding stops.