It was already dark when Laurajean Sammarco, 48, ventured to the doorstep of her house on Father Capodanno Boulevard.
She was startled to see a surge of bay water tumbling over a barrier near the beach and rushing toward her house.
“I said, ‘That can’t be water!’ ” she remembered. “It wasn’t like ‘Hawaii Five-0.’ It was like ‘The Blob.’ ”
She started calling relatives. “I’m screaming: ‘Get out! Get out!’ ” She jumped in her car with her husband, daughter and dog and raced through the neighborhood trying to pick up relatives and friends.
Panic began to seize household after household in Midland Beach as water pushed relentlessly into the neighborhood, slowly in some places, more quickly in others.
“Calls were coming in: somebody’s calling somebody, who’s calling somebody,” said Bill Owens, a retired police officer, whose family has lived in Midland Beach since 1928.
Residents reported water coming not just from the direction of the bay but, in some areas, from Hylan Boulevard to the west, or pushing south from the wetlands or north from Miller Field.
As water arrived on his street, Mr. Owens stepped outside to move his truck from a space on the corner.
But he never got there.
Within minutes, he was swimming frantically to get to the high stoop of a neighbor’s house.
Some residents who lived in two- and three-story houses grabbed children and pets and ran to upper floors. But for those in bungalows, higher ground was harder to reach.
“All these poor old-timers,” Mr. Owens said. “They must’ve been sleeping in their beds or watching TV.”