02:40 - Source: CNN
New Jersey town hit hard by Sandy

Story highlights

Rescuers dragged about 200 stranded people to safety

But many are left with damaged homes or tales of narrow espapes

It's just devastation everywhere," resident says

CNN  — 

Some of the destructive waters have receded in New Jersey’s Toms River and the heavy lifting has begun.

Using boats, and trucks, rescuers dragged about 200 stranded people to safety away from the waterlogged town and the devastated barrier islands.

But many of those saved, in that coastal town in the footsteps of Manhattan, took with them not only their pets and whatever keepsakes they could muster. They take with them the memories of the savage night Sandy came.

Esther Sarabella and her mother found themselves trapped in their car with flood waters up to their necks Monday night.

Grueling recovery begins on the East Coast

“You don’t know, you don’t know where to go, you’re trying to get out of the window, you’re up to your neck in water. It’s freezing, the wind is blowing,” said the still shaken woman. “I got a dog, I got my mother. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You see your life pass. You’re in shock. Everybody’s in shock. We never thought it was going to be this bad. Ever.”

Hers is another tale of woe that came on the powerful winds of Superstorm Sandy. The storm rushed in Monday drenching the East Coast, flooding streets from North Carolina to Vermont. Millions are still left without power and the calamity spawned fires that torched dozens of homes in New York. At least 33 were killed in the United States after the same storm killed 67 in the Caribbean last week.

Sandy changes lives forever

There were no deaths in Toms River, but still people there are telling their own tale of misery. Waters rose so high in some places that people had to be rescued from second floor windows.

“It was total chaos over there,” Toms River patrolman Chris Raia said. “We had a complete breach over there. I don’t think there was an area over there last night that was not covered by water.”

Rescue efforts in Toms River and nearby Seaside were hampered by high waters. Late Tuesday there was a line of firetrucks, ambulances and other rescue vehicles waiting for the roadways to clear enough to search for others that could be stranded.

“One street away from me, houses have water coming in them,” said Keith Paul, a resident. “Boats washed up in the middle of the highway. It’s just devastation everywhere.”

How to help

CNN’s Michael Holmes contributed to this report.