September 4th, 2011
03:56 PM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
PATERSON, New Jersey (CNN) - President Barack Obama reviewed damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene in northern New Jersey on Sunday, promising residents, "We'll be there to help."
Obama visited the towns of Paterson and Wayne, where residents showed the high-water marks from the flooding spawned by last week's hurricane. The Passaic River and one of its tributaries, the Pompton, overflowed their banks through the area after Irene dumped heavy rains across the Northeast.
"I know it's a tough time right now," Obama told people whose homes had flooded in Wayne, on the banks of the Pompton. "You guys hang in there. We're going to do everything we can to help."
Irene inflicted at least $1 billion in wind damage alone from North Carolina to New England, according to federal government estimates. Private-sector analysts have put the total expected losses as high as $6 billion.
During the visit, Obama hugged several people, including one woman who was overcome with tears, and at one point he theatrically rummaged through his pockets for change.
"I know it could have been worse, but we should not underestimate the heartache that's going through these communities and affecting a lot of these families," the president said.
Obama viewed the Passaic, which had crested Tuesday at seven feet over its flood stage, from a bridge in downtown Paterson and visited a relief center set up in the parking lot of a home-improvement store. About 600 utility customers remained without power in the Paterson area, out of about 6,600 remaining outages statewide.
Obama was accompanied by various federal and state officials, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, and the state's two Democratic U.S. senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. He was also joined by his Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, Craig Fugate, and the agency's coordinating officer, Bill Vogel.