A Thursday night dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant in Hawthorne, New Jersey, turned into a rescue mission when fast-moving floodwaters trapped patrons inside.
Nearly 200 people were at Bottagra Restaurant when the Passaic River began to overflow during an evening storm that slammed the tri-state area with more than 3 inches of rain within 24 hours.
Hawthorne fire Chief Joseph Speranza said firefighters began removing people from inside the eatery around 9:15 p.m. The building wasn't cleared until 1 a.m.
Video showed diners sloshing through ankle-deep water as they left the restaurant. Speranza said Friday that diners were initially asked to shelter in place and were allowed to leave once the water began to subside.
One woman passed out inside the restaurant, the chief said, and had to be carried outside and taken to the hospital. There were no other injuries.
A second water rescue took place at a factory across the street from the restaurant. Speranza said it was “too dangerous to put a boat in the water" so an aerial truck with a ladder had to be brought in to remove seven workers and a dog from the building.
Parts of Hawthorne, located in Passaic County in upstate New Jersey, are known to flood in intense rain. Speranza said he has not seen it get that bad since Ida, a tropical storm that killed more than 40 people last year in New York and New Jersey.
“Water came up really quick and it did a tremendous amount of damage," he said. "The road surface at the factory, which is just across from the Bottagra restaurant, looks like it has a partial collapse. The water damage was pretty intense and I’m a little taken aback by it.”
Water was still high Friday morning but is now below flood levels.
The highest rain totals were in Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey, as well as Westchester and Rockland counties in New York, according to NBC New York. Ridgewood, New Jersey saw the most, with 3.67 inches of rain in just a day, the news station reported.