AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey and left a path of destruction all the way up the state. Just across the river from New York in Bergen County, water flowed over the top of a levee along the Hackensack River, and then it poured into the town of Moonachie.
NPR's Jim Zarroli went there today.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: As Hurricane Sandy ripped through the area, Charlie Alta(ph) spent a sleepless night worried about tree branches crashing into his house in Ridgefield Park. His house was spared any damage, but his whole town lost power. Today, he went out to look around and was astonished by what he saw.
CHARLIE ALTA: Usually on 46th here in Little Ferry, the roads are flooded, but never into all this grassy area. Never. I've never seen it like this.
ZARROLI: The town of Moonachie had to be evacuated because of the overflowing levee. Everywhere you look there were downed trees and flooded streets. Water rose up to the front porches of houses. Ferrell McNeil(ph) got off the New Jersey Turnpike looking for gasoline and got stranded in four feet of water.
FERRELL MCNEIL: It's terrible. You make U-turns to go back, you run into a flood. It'd take you to another direction, you run into a flood. The whole area was actually flooded.
ZARROLI: McNeil was able to push his car out of the water, but it stalled and he was still there hours later. There were stalled cars everywhere you looked. Garage owner George Duntess(ph) did a brisk business towing cars out of the water.
GEORGE DUNTESS: Leave it in park and don't touch the brakes.
ZARROLI: When I caught up with him, he was pulling a Toyota Sienna out of the water. The driver had been trying to get to work when he took a wrong turn. Duntess towed the van to his garage. A little while later came a stark reminder of just what was at stake with Sandy. Duntess was stopped at a barricade in Hackensack. The police had found a dead man and wanted Duntess to move his car out of the water.
The body lay nearby in an office parking lot draped in a sheet. As Duntess drove on he said, no one knew how the man had died.
GEORGE DUNKIS: It could've been an older man, could've had a heart attack because he was scared, you know, being out here all night long in the middle of the night when it goes down to 50 degrees and you're soaking wet, anything could happen.
ZARROLI: That seems truer than ever now. By the middle of the day, the water seemed to be receding. But there were still reports of trapped people, people who hadn't heeded the warning to evacuate because they didn't believe Sandy could be so dangerous.
Jim Zarroli, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.