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Tracking Henri: Drivers Rescued From Flash Floods, Power Outages Reported In New Jersey

HELMETTA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- New Jersey is dealing with power outages and severe flooding associated with Henri.

Gov. Phil Murphy said those are his biggest concerns. He reminded residents not to go near any downed power lines.

Murphy said he was relieved the storm was not yet as bad as it might've been if the track had shifted, though he cautioned the lingering rains are going to present serious challenges. He urged people to stay home and off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

WATCH: Gov. Phil Murphy Discusses Henri's Impact On New Jersey

Murphy discussed his greatest concern with CBS2's Dick Brennan and Cindy Hsu.

"I'd say flooding, especially in the central part of the state. We're going to have several inches of rain, depending on where your are, when this thing is said and done. It's breezy, but not high winds, thankfully. Power is out to about 4,500 homes. That's frankly well below our worst fears. But I'd say flooding, flash flooding particularly, but not exclusively, in the central part of the state," Murphy said.

As CBS2's Meg Baker reported, John Street in Helmetta had been underwater since 9 a.m. before the surge receded. At one point it covered a car trapped in the middle of a road.

flooding rescue crews new jersey henri fan
(credit: CBS2)

"It was fine one minute, and the next minute, this brown water starts seeping through the streets," said Helmetta resident Sue Savage.

Savage said she woke her husband up around 8 a.m. and told him, "We are in trouble."

"By the time we left the house, the water was up to the ceiling in the basement," Savage said.

Helmetta Mayor Chris Slavicek said the borough's system of creeks were overloaded with torrential rain and overflow from other bodies of water, leaving roads washed out, businesses a muddy mess, and homes destroyed.

"We have 71 homes that are displaced, hundreds of residents. There's some severe damage. Foundations are broken out, not stable or safe for residents to go back," Slavicek said. "Emergency vehicles, rescue boats, it was like a scene from a movie. We are a hidden gem here in Helmetta and never expected something can happen to this caliber."

First responders came in with emergency vehicles and rescue boats to evacuate people from the rising water. One man and his dog went out later in the day to survey the damage in a canoe.

Mikayla Dent, 15, and her siblings were quick thinkers as they saw the water rising.

"I got up. First thing I did, I started gathering all my stuff. My sister gathered her stuff. I brought necessities like my charger. We packed waters and everything," Mikayla said.

Her mother, Annie, left at 7:20 a.m. to go to a training class. By 9 a.m., their street was underwater.

"Do you know what the inside of your house looks like right now?" Baker asked.

"No, I'm actually waiting to get back into the house. I'm a little afraid," Annie Dent said.

"Nervous about possible rainfall tonight?" Baker asked Slavicek.

"Of course. You know, you feel like your head is above water, no pun intended, but you don't know what's coming. Tides play a huge role," Slavicek said.

More than 150 people had to be evacuated because of flash floods.

There's a shelter set up at Spotswood High School. The Red Cross is there providing support.

Elsewhere in Middlesex County, the storm's torrential rain trapped motorists, totaled cars and damaged homes, CBS2's Christina Fan reported.

"I woke up, my power was off. I went to check on something, I started to walk, there was ankle-deep water. I looked outside, it was like a raging river on each side, and then finally they came and took us out in the boats," said Judy Smith, who was evacuated.

Click here for the latest forecast and weather alerts

Mobile 2 showed a river flowing through West Railroad Avenue in Jamesburg.

Tracking Henri: Mobile 2 Live

Mobile 2 is checking out conditions in New Jersey as Henri moves through the area:

Posted by CBS New York on Sunday, August 22, 2021

Helpless families stood in ankle deep water, fearing how much more the water would rise. Some were rescued by boats.

"I'm heartbroken, I'm upset. Their homes are flooded... they're going to lose their cars, they're losing their homes," said Monroe Township resident Susan Konieczny.

Michele Raimondi also lives in neighboring Monroe, where the water was creeping closer to her property.

"We just moved in last week," Raimondi said, adding when asked if she's worried about more rain in the forecast, "I'm cringing. I keep checking the radar."

Henri unleashed its power on the northern counties before pummeling the central part of the state.

WATCH: Water Rescue In Monroe Township

Streets were impassable in Newark. Rescuers on inflatable rafts guided people to safety.

Hoboken city workers got ahead of the storm and warned residents not to park in areas prone to flooding. There are road closure signs to warn drivers.

PHOTOS: Henri Impacts Tri-State Area

"I know it gets flooded down the street a lot more, by Jersey City, Hoboken intersection. But I have never seen something like this before," said Dinesh Sury of Hoboken.

The storm hit the city with record rainfall -- 4 inches over a four-and-a-half hour period. It's the most recorded in a single storm since 2016.

WATCH: Severe Flooding In Middlesex County

"We're the lowest point in Hoboken, so we're just expecting to get flooded here," said resident Erin Berkowitz.

Streets like Madison and Harrison looked like rivers overnight. People waded through just to get home. Water sloshed down sidewalks and into some buildings.

Streets in Long Beach Island experienced flooding.

Murphy said he's been communicating directly with senior leadership of PSE&G and JCP&L to make sure the utilities are prepared to restore power.

The rain in Essex County was relentless Saturday night and most of Sunday, saturating the ground. As a result, many trees are expected to come down, including one CBS2's Jessica Layton saw in Livingston.

Police were on hand putting up yellow tape around the area because of the wires now tangled in the many branches.

Watch Jessica Layton's report

The base of the trunk snapped and caused massive portions of the tree to essentially fall on two homes. Nobody was hurt. In fact, one neighbor said the rain was so loud he didn't even hear the tree fall, and it came down despite no significant wind gusts. So people are concerned about what's to come Sunday night into Monday.

"We called the township already and the police are gonna call PSE&G because there's a power line down and also the cable," homeowner Jackie Chiu said. "My major concern is the power line because for safety reasons because it keeps raining."

The Livingston Fire Department was also on the scene, but eventually had to leave because there were so many calls in the area for limbs down, wires down and water in basements.

CBS2's Christina Fan, Meg Baker and Jessica Layton contributed to this report.

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