August 16, 2011 in Nation/World

Record rains trap NYC workers

Associated Press

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.

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.

“We hit the water; we heard swishing,” Tyler said. Then the water started pouring in. “I was freaked out – the water was almost chest-high,” he said.

Of their two cell phones, one was wet and one had no signal. Almost an hour after they became trapped, one cell phone 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.

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