Scores of troopers, rangers National Guard members and firefighters combed for a second day through acres of washed-away homes, uprooted trees and mud-covered roads in rural Delaware County.
The houses were literally swept off their foundations and several cars were swept away by the raging water, reports WCBS-TV's Tamsen Fadal.
"We're out looking in all the vehicles that we find and any possible place they could be — neighbors' residence or anywhere," Richard Bell, Director of Emergency Services for Delaware County told CBS News.
Searchers on Thursday were methodically going house-to-house and checking vehicle license plate numbers over a couple of square miles in Delaware County, Trooper Nelson Torres said. Troopers traveling on all-terrain vehicles were being aided by cadaver dogs.
"It's a massive state effort," Dennis Michalski of the State Emergency Management Office said. "The key thing right now is search and rescue."
The woodsy area 100 miles northwest of New York City was deluged with up to eight inches of rain in two hours Tuesday night. Survivors described a wall of water smashing through the rural hamlets along Route 206.
"It was bringing trees, roots, stones, whatever it could catch," Susanna Erdos said, describing the rushing water.
Jeff Lackey says he was lucky to escape with his life.
"The current was so strong, it started to pull me away, so I ran in the house. Somebody called me on the phone to see if we were OK, and they said, 'you can come and stay with us.' I said 'I gotta go, it's coming in through the front door," he told WCBS-TV.
"The suddenness of it made it a more devastating event. However, the fact that the waters have receded quickly is aiding us in our rescue efforts," said state police Major Kevin Molinari.
Residents may not be allowed back into their homes for 7 to 10 days. Andrea Brown, the wife of Jeff Lackey, says they just finished four years of renovations on their Colcester, N.Y., home, and she's hoping for federal aid.
"We were told we're not in a flood zone, so none of us have flood insurance. We called our homeowners insurance company and they're not going to cover us at all," she told WCBS-TV.
Storms that raked across the state Tuesday left thousands without power and led to the death of a man in Rochester. The victim was riding a recreational vehicle on a wooded trail when the top half of a tree crashed down on him during a storm.