Two young New Jerseyans were swept away by floodwaters as Tropical Storm Ida ravaged the Northeast, and remain missing, according to local reports.
Area resident Lady Torres said she watched from her second floor window as she saw the harrowing scene unfold along Main Avenue, unable to do anything to help.
“When they got to the middle of the street, they got out of the car,” Torres told PIX11 News. “And I don’t know if they were trying to take a video but the car just started moving and the current was so strong it just swept everyone away.”
Their car and their phones have been recovered by rescuers. But there is no sign of either one, and officials believe the raging waters may have shunted the two into a storm drain that feeds into the Passaic River. The Rana family was unable to be reached for comment.
Another motorist, 56-year-old Donna Lomagro, was also swept away by rushing waters from the Passaic when she got out of her stranded car. Two bystanders tried to help, but had to be rescued themselves after being overwhelmed by the powerful torrent. Lomagro has not been found, and is presumed dead, authorities said.
“They’re still looking for her,” Lomagro’s nephew Joe told The Daily Beast, not comfortable with providing further details.
At least 48 people along the East Coast have been reported dead in the aftermath of Ida, which slammed the area with ungodly amounts of rain Wednesday night. The storm triggered tornadoes, shut down mass transit, and caused building collapses in the wake of once-in-a-lifetime flooding that led the National Weather Service to declare its first-ever flash flood emergency for New York City.
Ida hit Northern New Jersey especially hard, and the swollen Passaic River played a leading role in the destruction. An unidentified Clifton man driving through the storm with his wife and son on Wednesday died behind the wheel as rising waters trapped him inside.
“We had a 70-year-old gentleman who, unfortunately, was stuck in his vehicle and was overtaken with water and drowned,” said Passaic Mayor Hector Lora. “But two of the family members were rescued as a direct result of the courageous actions of firefighters who went into over six feet of water and were able to rescue the wife and the son.”
In neighboring Paterson, firefighters were on their way to another rescue when a man banged on the truck’s door and said his friend was trapped beneath the roadway of the Temple Street Bridge, which spans the Passaic River. The waters had gotten so high, the victim was unable to escape, the man explained.
Firefighters communicated with the desperate man through a tiny gap in one of the bridge’s expansion joints, but divers were unable to reach him when floating debris prevented them from getting any closer. So rescuers made a hole in the tarmac using jackhammers and electric saws, cutting through 10 inches of asphalt and concrete, a steel plate, and three-quarter-inch reinforced rebar to get to the man—who was by then nearly submerged in the river and almost out of air.
As the bridge rescue was going on, another team of Paterson firefighters about two blocks upriver were working furiously to save an emergency medical crew and a patient trapped in an ambulance by the deluge.
“It was surreal,” said Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott.