Crystal Hutchinson knew the Jersey Shore might flood during the blizzard so when she woke at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, she checked for rising water.
Forty-five minutes later her husband, James, woke her again. The fast moving water was almost on their porch in North Wildwood and the electricity was off.
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“The water was crazy, crazy right outside of the door,” she said.
Hutchinson, her husband, her five children as well as her neighbor’s teenage daughter and the girl’s boyfriend were stranded and the North Wildwood Police Department was overwhelmed with emergency calls.
“The water was still coming up and we didn’t know how we were going to get out,” she said.
An hour and a half later, they were able to flag down a 5-ton military truck that the police use for high waters. They passed the younger children over then waded in. Later Hutchinson tweeted a photo of her 9-year-old daughter, Jolie Wilson, being carried to the truck. The photo was taken by her neighbor, Ashgan Abouelgheet.
“We were petrified,” Hutchinson said. “We were so scared. The kids were all having anxiety attacks.”
Three years ago, the family lost everything while living in neighboring Wildwood during superstorm Sandy. They were afraid they would again.
The Hutchinsons and their neighbors were among up to 200 people evacuated by the police department throughout the day, Chief Matthew Gallagher said. Cities at the southern end of the Jersey Shore were flooded more severely than during Sandy while other were pummeled as dramatically or worse.
Police Officer Joseph Kopetsky, who carried Jolie to the truck, said that the Hutchinsons’ call for help was among 45 pending at one point. The water was a few inches from the top his waders — about 4 to 4 1/2 feet, he estimated. He and his fellow officer, Justin Robinson, tired to keep the children calm.
“We just tried out best to make them comfortable while we guided them into the truck,” Kopetsky said. “It’s intimidating.”
The Hutchinsons eventually found their way to Crystal Hutchinson’s mother’s house in nearby North Cape May.
In the end, the water stopped rising soon after they left and they had no damage. But others in town lost belongings, she said.
“We were the lucky ones,” she said. “There were a lot of people who were much less fortunate.”