Three friends and a 5-year-old girl had just finished rolling up an old rug and unrolling a new one on Sunday afternoon when the storm outside changed from heavy rain to something else.
Katharine Dagaev, 62, has seen heavy rain and watched the creek outside her Highland Falls window crawl many times in her 10 years here, but never this high, and still rising.
She moved as fast as she could, crippled by a knee filled with sticks and immobilized. She slipped her medicine and some clothes into a bag and put on her shoes. In the short time that lasted, it was already too late. Water flowed under the door. The women tried to dam it with the old carpet, but that didn’t hold.
Her friend with the 5-year-old granddaughter transported herself and the girl through a window, along with York in a backpack. But Mrs. Dagaev’s other friend uses a walker. They were caught.
Scenes like this played out all over Hudson County and the surrounding area as a slow and powerful storm dumped levels of rain unknown to the area’s oldest residents. More than a dozen people were rescued in New York.
But terrified residents watching water rise in their homes had no way of knowing when or if help would arrive.
Mrs. Dagaev looked outside. It was as if a river had been diverted, now running through the middle of the four small buildings that are the Weyant Green Apartments in the village of Highland Falls. The water grew deeper and faster as it flowed toward Highland Brook, feet away, and the Hudson River, below, and those little buildings were the last structures it would hit on its way.
Mrs. Dagaev was unsteady on the dry ground. There was no way she could get out there.
Most of the 50-odd apartments are for the elderly, the rest for low-income families. Younger relatives tried to help, but the nearby bridge was covered by several feet of rushing water, and they were unable to reach the property. Neither could emergency responders.
Pat Flynn, former mayor of Highland Falls, made it over in his Explorer with a friend worried for her mother. He saw older men and women – those who could stand – crouched in their doorways as water ran up their legs. Some staggered to higher ground.
Mr. Flynn rushed over to a man with a cane and put an arm around him. Strong currents rose above their knees and pulled them.
If these people lose their footing and fall, they are gone, he thought. He spoke encouragingly, and the older man immediately gave it back to him, shouting: “Let’s go! We can do this, come on!”
Mr. Flynn moved with him slowly to higher ground, then turned back. “People were shouting, I have to take my grandmother out!”
More shouting: Hey, there’s someone here! There’s someone there!
A high school senior raced out of his mother’s apartment and helped neighbors cross the water. He ran to the window of Mrs. Dagaev’s apartment, and when he could not help her, he tried to encourage her.
She called her friend, Laurie Tautel, the county legislator, who was just minutes away on Main Street in Highland Falls. Mrs. Tautel called, trying to secure state aid for the entire village.
There might as well have been an ocean between them.
“You have to get me out of here!” Mrs. Dagaev shouted. “I’m going to die!”
Mrs. Tautel went as close as she could to the apartments, looking down from above.
“It was like white water rapids that washed into the compound and went around the buildings,” she said. “I prayed that they would not come off their foundations.”
Below, Mr. Flynn tried to help an immobilized older man with bandages around his shins and calves, who was uncooperative.
“He wanted to stay — ‘There’s nowhere for me to go.’” He asked Mr. Flynn to find his medicine on the other side of the room as the water rose.
Firefighters from Highland Falls and nearby West Point arrived. They found Mrs. Dagaev and her friend, and talked to them through the window. We’ll take you out, they said.
“I had to climb up on my coffee table and sit on the windowsill with my back out the window, and fall into their arms,” she said the next day, her voice breaking with emotion.
Her friend did the same.
No lives were lost at the Weyant Green Apartments during the flooding. Apartments were badly damaged by water and will be uninhabitable for months. But everyone got out safely.
Mr. Flynn, in addition to being the former mayor, also drives an ambulance in the village. He was struck by the reaction to the crisis he saw on Sunday, before the professionals could get to the scene.
There was a sense of orderly calm: “‘Hey, we’re going to go get this guy, he needs help.’