In Sandy's Wake, a Grim Reality for Residents of Little Ferry, N.J.

"Within a matter of 10 minutes, just gone," said resident Nancy Gacchione.

October 30, 2012, 5:31 PM

Oct. 30, 2012— -- In Sandy's wake, the small town of Little Ferry, N.J., is suddenly coming to grips with a grim new reality.

Turn into town -- after numerous detours due to road closings, seemingly at every turn -- and find traffic backed up about half a mile. A right turn onto Main Street and the storm's force slowly comes into full view. Streets are flooded, rescue teams load evacuees onto trucks, fire truck sirens blare, residents cry. A Jet Ski rests by a stop sign. An SUV sits submerged in the water. Trash cans float down the streets.

It all happened so fast, residents said.

"Within a matter of 10 minutes, just gone," said Nancy Gacchione.

She and her husband, Vincent, on the street holding their shivering dogs Dora and Phebe, made it out right as their house flooded with four feet of water, but family belongings, their cars, were gone.

"Everything just disappeared, and there's nothing you can do," said Vincent."It happened in 20 minutes," he said. "Everything I worked for all my life. Everything we owned ... and there was nothing you could do but watch."

"Heartbreaking," he said, breaking down in tears. "All your life."

Another resident, Paul Garzon, rushed by carrying a pair of shoes, getting out of town while he could.

"Nothing like I'd ever imagined it," he said of Sandy's wrath. "We definitely underestimated it."

An exhausted Jim Bastan of New Jersey Task Force One, a volunteer search and rescue team, said the team had rescued more than 400 residents in the past 12 hours.

"You don't realize until you slow down," he said.

Just down the road, the Sinclair family, including its dog, packed into a vehicle that the Bergen County Sheriff's office was using to evacuate residents.

"A paddy wagon," one of them noted.

So, as the Sinclairs leave their house, their neighborhood behind, what do they do now?

"Wherever we can go and get dry and then go from there," said one of them. Before the door slammed shut and the van headed off down the road, another group of cold and wet residents headed out of town.

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