HOBOKEN, NJ -- As an extensive rescue mission by the National Guard remains underway, much of Hoboken is still in the dark and the city is rapidly running out of supplies.
Phones are down, backup generators have failed and the floodwaters are a potentially toxic mix of rainwater, sewage and fuel.
"The damage is unprecedented," said Mayor Dawn Zimmer on Wednesday afternoon. "This is a historic natural disaster."
Hundreds of people were rescued from their apartments on Wednesday, many among them seniors, pregnant women and families with small children.
Although floodwater continued to recede, 85 percent of Hoboken remained without power overnight on Wednesday, as temperatures were expected to drop in the low 40s.
All day on Wednesday, more than ten vehicles from the National Guard—which arrived in Hoboken around 11 p.m. on Tuesday after being called in by Zimmer Monday night—rescued residents from their apartments.
Around 6 p.m., National Guard troops rescued an elderly woman from her home at Fourth and Garden Streets. Much like many buildings in Hoboken right now, the lobby of the building was slippery with residue from floodwater, the stairwell was pitch black, and smells of sewage permeated the air.
The city received ten backup generators on Wednesday night to spread out over town as needed. One will be placed at the police headquarters and one will be placed at the Wallace School, the original Hoboken shelter, where the backup generator failed during the storm. Power is still out in City Hall and the police department, where the phone lines also aren't working.
The city is running out of fuel, Zimmer announced, urging all residents to stay off the roads after dark since there are still no working traffic signals in the city. The city also needs flashlights, batteries, canned goods and water, Zimmer said.
First priority on Wednesday went to people with medical emergencies. A five-day-old infant, a three week old and a woman with labor pains were all evacuated overnight.
At Fourth and Madison, Swati Gadodi, 33, was evacuated from her house where she had been since Monday night without power. She said her basement was flooded and she was unable to leave.
“We were scared when the storm surge came,” said Gadodi, who was at home with her husband, Prashant, and 3-year-old son, Vihaan. “We were lucky that we were saved.”
“We were running out of milk for the baby,” Gadodi said. “We couldn’t have survived for one more night.”
Gadodi said she left Hoboken after Irene, but stayed in town this time around because there was no citywide mandatory evacuation.
The National Guard, together with a large group of volunteers, brought water to those residents who decided to stay in their homes.
The Hoboken Housing Authority was still completely flooded Wednesday and meals and water were scheduled to be delivered there.
While rescues were voluntary in most cases, many residents said they didn't expect the storm to hit Hoboken so hard and thought they'd be able to ride it out. When the floodwaters rose, they were trapped with a dwindling supply of food and water.
Katie Murphy was evacuated from her apartment at First and Clinton Streets with her husband and 16-month-old twins. Murphy is five months pregnant and said she was happy to be out of her apartment.
“We thought we’d be fine for a couple of days,” she said, “I’m happy to be out of there.”
Many people left town during the day on Wednesday as it became apparent that the power outage could last up to 10 days. It's almost impossible to predict when power will be restored, since two of Hoboken's substations were flooded out, authorities said.
James Way, 50, and his dog, Shaggy, were evacuated from his apartment at Fourth and Monroe Streets.
“My dog is fine,” he said. “He’ll be much better now that he’s going to a house.”
But the storm has also brought much of the community together.
As darkness fell, pedestrians ignored a curfew in effect and navigated the streets with flashlights.
Residents on Hudson Street have provided outlets, WiFi and extention cords for Hobokenites desperate to charge their phones. Hundreds of volunteers were out in the street and in City Hall all day. Food, water and other supplies were delivered.
"It's been a tough couple of days," Zimmer said, but Hoboken showed "incredible community spirit."
"We are coming together," Zimmer said.