Record rains trap workers in flooded NYC elevator

Towing service employees wade through flood waters to reach disabled cars on Amboy Road in Staten Island, N.Y., on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011.
Jillian Jorgensen | AP
Towing service employees wade through flood waters to reach disabled cars on Amboy Road in Staten Island, N.Y., on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011.
Posted Aug. 15, 2011, at 8:54 p.m.
With lunch in hand, Zachary Cunha (right) and Nathan Grajales try to jump over the water running down William Street in downtown New Bedford, Mass., during a torrential downpour Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.
Peter Pereira | AP
With lunch in hand, Zachary Cunha (right) and Nathan Grajales try to jump over the water running down William Street in downtown New Bedford, Mass., during a torrential downpour Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.

NEW YORK — Two New York City construction workers barely escaped drowning in an elevator as storms dropped record rains over the weekend on parts of the nation’s eastern half, washing out roads in New Jersey and forcing a small hospital in Ohio to move patients.

One of the workers, cabinetmaker Ed Tyler, of Milltown, N.J., told The Associated Press on Monday that he and colleague Wendell Amaker, of Roselle, N.J., were happy to be alive after their ordeal.

The storm dropped nearly 8 inches of rain on New York City’s Kennedy Airport on Sunday and nearly 5 in Philadelphia, setting city records for any day. At Seabrook Farms, N.J., the daily total was nearly 11 inches.

In most spots, the effects were bad but not disastrous — sometimes narrowly so, like on New York City’s Staten Island, where Tyler and Amaker were moving materials for a senior center being built.

As rain drummed the borough around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Tyler and Amaker were using an elevator to get supplies to a basement that, unknown to them, was filling up with floodwaters.

After they got in, the doors would not open, though they pressed buttons in vain.

Almost an hour after they became trapped, one of their cell phones suddenly caught a signal and they called 911.

In a few minutes, fire rescuers arrived, shut off power to the elevator and hoisted the men out through the ceiling hatch with a ladder.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported from the record-breaking cloudbursts, but the region wasn’t out of the woods by Monday evening. Flood watches remained in effect as far north as Rhode Island even as the rains moved out to sea.

The slow-moving system was the same one that toppled a stage with its winds Saturday at the Indiana State Fair, killing five people. Its lazy pace was what caused the exceptional rainfall amounts, said Dave Scheibe, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, N.J.

In southern New Jersey, a dam on Seeley Lake broke Sunday, turning the normally mild Cohansey River into a raging threat racing through downtown Bridgeton.

Amtrak lines were closed through Baltimore for a time Monday because water over the tracks.

Cleveland’s 3.51 inches of rain broke a record for Aug. 14 that had been on the books since 1905, according to the National Weather Service. The deluge postponed an Indians baseball game and canceled a concert by pop star Selena Gomez.

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