- Associated Press - Saturday, March 12, 2011

WOODLAND PARK, N.J. (AP) — Anxious officials from Maryland to Maine were closely monitoring swollen rivers and other waterways that had or were poised to overflow their banks on Saturday, causing more hardships for communities where major flooding forced hundreds of people from their homes.

Forecasters warned that the worst was yet to come for many areas, especially parts of flood-prone northern New Jersey that were already under water after a storm that dropped as much as 5 inches of rain in some areas from Thursday afternoon through Friday morning. That came just days after most of the same areas — which are emerging from a snow-filled winter — were flooded by another round of heavy rains.

Hundreds of people remained out of their homes as major flooding continued Saturday morning along the Passaic and Raritan rivers in north Jersey. But conditions were improving in other nearby areas, where swollen waterways had mostly crested and were starting to recede.

Mother Nature was also giving the region a break: The National Weather Service said no major rains were expected there for several days, giving those areas a chance to dry out after the waterways drop back below flood levels.

But that provided little relief for residents who had to be evacuated from their homes and remained in shelters on Saturday, unsure of when they would be able to return home and how much damage the floods had caused.

In Woodland Park, N.J., Mel Sivri spent most of Friday watching the Passaic River. He hung his daughters’ pink bicycles and other items from ceiling hooks in the garage while an industrial pump cleared 4 inches of water from the floor.

“You cannot pump the river,” he said. “You just have to wait for it to go down.”

New Jersey was not alone in dealing with major flooding. Residents in several other mid-Atlantic states had been forced to flee their homes due to the rising waters, and officials said more could be forced out on Saturday.

In Greenburgh, N.Y., north of New York City, Jessica Dontona was home with her 7-year-old daughter, Samantha, to check on the house. They had decamped in the middle of the night for a hotel as the basement filled with water.

The flood made her think about moving.

“You know, living high on a hill is starting to look really good,” she said.

New York state from Manhattan to the Canadian border was under a flood watch as heavy rains and melting snow closed roads. And there were major concerns in New England that rising waters could break up river ice, creating ice jams that can cause flooding.

The Coast Guard said it started its springtime ice-breaking ritual Saturday on the Kennebec River, and will continue through Tuesday to reduce the risk of property damage.

Meanwhile, flooding along the rain-swollen Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania prompted some road closures Saturday and sent water into some basements, but no serious problems were reported.

And police in Pittsburgh had set up detours for revelers coming into the city for Saturday morning’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The detours were to help motorists avoid flooding in the low-lying sections of Interstate 376 along the Monongahela, though the waters had started receding by early Saturday afternoon.

The flooding was also blamed for at least two deaths.

A 74-year-old Pennsylvania man’s car was swept into Swatara Creek on Thursday in Pine Grove, about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia. And a woman drowned in Ohio on Friday after getting out of her car in a ditch in Williams County.

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald in Elmsford, N.Y.; Chris Carola and Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y.; Shawn Marsh and Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J.; David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md.; Matt Moore in Philadelphia; Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh; and Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J.