MOONACHIE, N.J. (AP) — A tidal surge triggered by superstorm Sandy sent water overflowing a riverbank and gushing out of storm drains, quickly swamping two northern New Jersey towns and setting off a frantic middle-of-the-night rescue of people stranded in houses and on rooftops.
Authorities said the body of a man was recovered from the river Tuesday morning upstream from the main flood zone, where rescues were carried out through the night.
Gov. Chris Christie said hundreds of stranded people were rescued when the tidal surge up the Hackensack River resulted in water overflowing a natural berm.
The body was recovered in the city of Hackensack, where flooding also occurred but was less severe. The victim was not immediately identified, and county officials said they did not yet have a cause of death.
In Moonachie, a town of 2,700 about 10 miles northwest of Manhattan, police Sgt. Tom Schmidt said water rose to 5 feet within 45 minutes, making roads impassable and cutting off residents who thought the worst from the superstorm was over.
The floodwaters also knocked out the police and fire departments, forcing them to relocate to a business in a neighboring community.
Schmidt said rescuers had trouble using boats to carry out rescues because water levels were varying from several feet to only inches. Trucks were also used.
Mobile home park resident Juan Allen told The Associated Press that water overflowed a 2-foot-wall along a nearby creek during the tidal surge, filling the area with 2 to 3 feet of water within 15 minutes and eventually as much as 5 feet.
"I saw trees not just knocked down but ripped right out of the ground," he said. "I watched a tree crush a guy's house like a wet sponge."
He said rescuers moved in quickly to get people out.
"There's no way you're going to be ready for something like this," he said.