Six years ago, Merrell Warshaw opened a bridal gown shop on top of a small hill in the village of Mamaroneck, N.Y. That location, on high ground right across from the local fire department, saved his business this week.
Most business owners in this Westchester County city of 18,000 were still pumping water out of flooded basements and storefronts on Tuesday after a powerful spring storm swept across the Northeast earlier in the week.
"We had cars floating around here," Warshaw said. "I've never seen anything like it."
New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, who toured the low-lying area on Monday, has called Mamaroneck the "epicenter of the damage" wrought by the storm.
Late Sunday, strong winds and record-high rainfall burst the banks of the Mamaroneck River and two branches of Sheldrake River, filling restaurants, and shops with as much as five feet of water and forcing more than 80 families out of their homes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has dispatched damage assessment teams to the area, as well as other parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine, the agency said Tuesday.
"Once we see what the scope of the damage is, this well help us determine if there is a need for federal assistance," said Stephen Kempf, FEMA's regional administrator in New York.
New Jersey's acting Gov. Richard Cody declared a state of emergency on Monday, following widespread flooding and multiple road closures throughout the state. The declaration gives authority to the director of the state's emergency management services to order evacuations and set up temporary shelters.
Currently, about 1,100 people have fled to emergency shelters.
In New Hampshire, rising waters from the Lamprey River flooded a Verizon central switching station, knocking out service completely for more than 6,000 phone lines and impairing 12,000 more, the phone company said Tuesday. The lines were expected to be down for several weeks.
To help cushion the blow, the Internal Revenue Service is giving taxpayers in hard-hit regions an extra two days to file their 2006 returns.
Taxpayers have until midnight April 19, and should write "April 16 Storm" on their returns, the agency said.
Back in Mamaroneck, though Warshaw's shop sustained no damage from the storm, he said some of the worst-hit businesses were just a block away.
"They've lost power and can't pump out any more water," Warshaw said. "Some of the boilers are also out and they've got no heat."
Warshaw added that the string of businesses included a Chinese restaurant, a pizza parlor, and a nail salon, among others. "They're in pretty bad shape," he said.
Still, Warshaw called small-business owners in the area a "resilient group," adding that the city would be back on its feet in no time.