Until Friday, it was too dangerous to get a look at the damage from the ground, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
The view from Chopper 2 showed a catastrophic scene. Several homes and a banquet hall exploded. The gas-fed fires burned on because floodwaters made them unreachable.
Now that the water has receded, people were able to get a look at the damage.
Main Street is a muddy mess. Business owners are pumping out basements and tossing out thousands of dollars worth of food.
“I lost everything,” business owner Rebeca Jimenez told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
The Sonnenberg family lost so many sentimental items. Eighteen-year-old twins Richard and Roxie have been clearing out the home that once belonged to their great-grandparents.
“It’s a lot of stuff from our childhood,” Roxie said.
“Definitely some pictures, family photos,” Richard said.
As water rose to catastrophic levels Thursday, Richard had to be rescued by boat.
“When I got picked up, it was weird because I was able to step right off my roof onto the boat, so there was no drop or anything,” he said.
“We’re not the only people who’s been through it, and down the street, a house exploded, so I can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Roxie said.
That house belonged to the Dommar family.
“This looks like, this is the second story of the home, possibly. This is our dining room here,” said Meagan Dommar.
The Dommar family is trying to find valuables, like their wedding rings, amidst the still smoking rubble where their home once stood. A family picture was discovered while they were speaking with Gainer.
They said their 4-month-old baby Lila is the reason they’re alive.
“We had a neighbor who actually lives in Manville on the other side, who warned us about the water rising. So we decided, because we had a baby, let’s go. If we didn’t have the baby, we probably would’ve stayed,” Dommar said.
Watch Alice Gainer’s report —
At one point, Caesar Dommar came back for their pet cat before the flooding got worse. Then he left again.
“3:30 yesterday, my neighbor called me. She said the house had exploded. The second flood caved into the first floor,” he said.
Their roof, miraculously, didn’t hit any homes. It blew next door.
Elsewhere, there were about 500 rescues in town. The Office of Emergency Management director said there were no fatalities.
“The Raritan River crested yesterday morning at about 27.6 feet, which was past our 27.1 that we had in Hurricane Floyd in ’99. The Millstone River crested a little over 20 feet,” said Director John Bentz.
The Dommar family watched as crews started clearing the remnants of their home away Friday afternoon. They’re in disbelief, but mostly just grateful.
Bentz estimated at least 100 homes in Manville are uninhabitable.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report. Editor’s note: This story was first published Sept. 3.