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Hundreds Rescued As Flash Floods Take Union County Residents By Surprise

CRANFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Flash floods took many by surprise in Union County. It continued throughout the day Thursday as rivers continued to rise.

CBS2's Meg Baker spoke with residents in Cranford as they waited for the water to crest.

Christina Wichoski held onto her 4-year-old son as a rescue boat drove them to dry land. Their home on the north side of town took on water as the Rahway River overflowed and overpowered their neighborhood.

"Completely flooded through the first floor. My walls are destroyed," Wichoski said. "We were safe. We were on the second floor."

Emergency response teams were out since the morning rescuing people from their homes and cars. Police said more than 200 people needed help.

Baker road along in the Humvee during a rescue. Crews helped Virginia Peles out of the boat and escorted her the rest of the way to safety in the police vehicle.

Peles was staying at her daughter's house.

"I wanted to watch their dog and I ended up in the flood," Peles said. "Both cars are totaled because we had water up past the wheels."

Another couple and their dog hitched a ride with rescuers.

Isaiah Johnstone asked police for help.

"My dog is stuck in the house," Johnstone said.

Basements were flooded across the area as water seeped in.

The water on the other side of the tracks was stagnant and continued to rise long after the storm passed. Cars were still sitting in the muck.

The Kilkenny House Restaurant had more than four feet of water in the basement. Their pumps couldn't keep up.

"I'm here since about 7 o'clock... I imagine that it's risen at least six more inches. So, right now I'd say we're up to 4 feet," said owner Barry O'Donovan. "The biggest problem now is that it needs to crest. Otherwise, it will hit the electrical panel downstairs and we'd be without power."

Police issued a shelter in place warning to residents, urging them not to drive through flood water. The current was so strong, it overtook some vehicles.

"The storm initially came over projecting 4 to 5 inches. It doubled that. We're up to about 10 inches," said Lt. Matthew Nazzaro from the Cranford Police Department.

There's a big cleanup ahead.

CBS2's Meg Baker contributed to this report.

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