Irene Documentary Chronicles Manville Family’s Experience

Star-Ledger Video Journalist Andre Malok discusses his documentary "The Lost Valley: Rising Water, Sinking Hopes," about the Burlew family's experience after flooding from Tropical Storm Irene destroyed their belongings.

It’s been about one year since Tropical Storm Irene devastated parts of New Jersey, becoming the state’s most costliest natural disaster. Andre Malok, a video journalist for The Star-Ledger, covered the storm’s destruction and created the documentary “The Lost Valley: Rising Water, Sinking Hopes,” which will air on NJTV starting tonight. Malok chronicled the experience of a Manville family whose home was filled with six feet of water by Irene. He discussed the process of making the documentary and the reasoning behind it with NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor.

Malok said he chose Manville for the documentary because it historically gets flooded during events like hurricanes and severe thunderstorms. “Certainly there were lots of areas in New Jersey that were hit really hard, but Manville has a special history and we decided that was one we were going to focus on,” he said.

When Malok was in Manville covering the effects of Irene, he said roads were shut down and people were evacuated, similar to many other areas around New Jersey.


The documentary focuses on Ken Burlew and his family. Malok met him while in Manville after he had been evacuated from his home with his wife and children. Burlew allowed Malok to accompany him when he returned to his home to assess the damage.

“It was the saddest thing to see furniture completely destroyed. There was about six feet of water on his first floor so as you can imagine, the basement, first floor completely destroyed,” Malok said. “It had been the third time that they had lived through that in just a short seven-year period.”

Money has been set aside for buyouts of some homes, but Malok said the Burlews weren’t able to benefit from the $3.9 million set aside for Manville since it only covered 15 homes. Malok said a neighboring home received a buyout but the Burlews must remain.

“It was very sad for them. They wanted out. They had enough,” Malok said. They wanted to move on and they were unable to, at least until the next time and there certainly may be a next time.”