Nightly News   |  September 04, 2011

Irene dumped more problems on suffering town

The president visited Paterson, N.J., on Sunday to survey Irene's damage in a town that was already struggling with 16.7% unemployment. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> folks in the northeast are still dealing with the aftermath of last weekend's storm, irene . in already hard-hit vermont, there's a flood watch flood watch with forecasters expecting up to four inches of rain in that state. tens of thousands of homes and businesses still have no power along the east coast . 25,000 of them in connecticut alone.

>>> president obama took time to survey the damage from irene today in waterlogged northern new jersey . nbc's kristen welker joins us from patterson , new jersey, a city facing hard times even before the water started rising. kristen , good evening.

>> reporter: good evening to you, kate. the passaic river raging behind me caused some of the worst flooding this community has seen in over a century. it has receded a bit since last week, but this community is still hurting. a federal show of force. president obama walked the streets of wayne, new jersey, with governor chris christie , new jersey's senators and fema administrator, craig fugate, to view the damage left by hurricane irene .

>> we'll be here to help. i know, it's very hard.

>> reporter: his next stop, patterson , where he visited the new fema office. and delivered a message to those still struggling.

>> i know there's been some talk about whether there's going to be a slowdown in getting funding here. as president of the united states , i want to make it very clear that we're going to meet our federal obligations.

>> reporter: and while the president was met mostly by cheering crowds, amy allen , who caught a glimpse of the motorcade said the visit hasn't done anything to get her power back on.

>> this is day six without any electricity, any hot water .

>> reporter: even before the hurricane hit, patterson was struggling economically, with an unemployment rate above 16%. irene caused 1500 people to be evacuated, and knocked out power to thousands in the area. destroying some homes and businesses completely.

>> whether they were unemployed, underemployed. they had a tough time before this. so now this catastrophe leaves them with basically nothing.

>> reporter: the president's challenge now is not only to help this community recover from irene , but also, much like the rest of the country, to put people back to work. his other task? to keep their confidence, mr. obama won new jersey in 2008 , but his approval rating has been dwindling. now the stricken people of patterson just want to see something done.

>> basically it's very hot. the water, i have a lot of mold.

>> reporter: now power has been restored to most of the people here, save a few. and the folks who do have power say they will be watching the president's jobs speech this thursday quite closely. kate?

>> kristen welker in new jersey tonight.