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Evacuations Underway Burlington County, New Jersey
2004 07 11

More than 500 people in four Burlington County communities were evacuated after heavy rains flooded roads and homes, authorities said Tuesday.

A diving board from the community pool peeks out from the floodwaters.
At least five small dams broke through the night as about 12 inches of rain fell, said Kevin Tuno, the county emergency management coordinator.

"We have a lot of houses and vehicles that were damaged," he said.

People in Mount Laurel, Medford Township, Lumberton Township and Southampton were taken to shelters set up in schools and government buildings, Tuno said.

Despite what is thought to be extensive property damage, no injuries were reported in the flooding that started Monday night.

Firefighters, police officers and other workers helped people from their homes. Some people were rescued from the roofs of their cars when the deluge made roadways impassable. In some cases, boats had to be used, Tuno said.

"First they started with one family and then another family and then it rapidly escalated," he said.

Tuno said 200 people were evacuated from locations in Medford Township and 60 people from locations in Mount Laurel. About 4:30 a.m., 250 people were evacuated from locations in Southampton Township, and additional people from Lumberton Township.

He said he did not know when people would be able to return to their homes and did not know how many houses and cars were affected.

Many of the dams in the area are small, and used to contain a series of lakes near low-lying residential neighborhoods. It was not immediately clear which of the dams had broken.

Tuno said at least one bridge had been destroyed and major roads closed and he anticipated a difficult morning for the county that stretches east from Philadelphia through south-central New Jersey.

"The commute is very bad because we have some areas where you just cannot get from one part of the county to another," he said.

Route 70 had detours and Route 206 was partially closed.

Television stations carried images of people still being helped from homes by rescuers Tuesday morning.

And Tuno said the day may grow more difficult.

He said waters may rise later when high tide hits about 2 p.m. and causes tidal waters to back up creeks that channel water out of the area.

Gov. James E. McGreevey planned to view the area by helictopter Tuesday morning.

The calamities started Monday night as states of emergency were declared in Medford Lakes, Medford Township, Mount Laurel, Southampton, and Pemberton Township, according to the Burlington County Office of Emergency Management.

The most rainfall in the county was recorded in Tabernacle, where about 13 inches had fallen, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly said Tuesday morning. An exact amount was not tallied.

Burlington was the only New Jersey county to activate its emergency management center.

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