Nathalia Bruno, 24, of Newark told police she was delivering food when her car got caught in a flash flood near the Benson Avenue tennis courts.
She said she “was then dragged by a current of water and she could see it heading towards a tunnel."
Bruno told police she bailed out but was pulled underground along with her car.
The tide carried her and the car several blocks below ground, then under Route 21 toward the Bergen County side of the river.
At the other end, Bruno said, she "attempted to swim for as long as she could and became tired and stopped swimming," then floated to land.
A resident on dead-ended Camneer Avenue dialed 911 after Bruno climbed out of the water onto her property, Rutherford Detective Capt. Patrick Feliciano said.
Officers responded, along with an ambulance that took her to St. Mary's General Hospital in Passaic for an evaluation.
"It's an amazing story," Feliciano said. "It's a miracle that she survived."
(NOTE: A previous version of this story reported that Bruno got out of her car safely before it was swept away.)
Several drivers and passengers had to be rescued in Passaic and throughout North Jersey during Monday's storm, which flooded roads, downed trees and, in some places, rained hail the size of marbles.
"We had between 2-4 inches of rain in 15 minutes, which is almost unheard of," Passaic Mayor Hector Carlos Lora said.
"There were streets that never get flooded around our city and neighboring municipalities that ended up flooded, cars swept away, electrical lines down, branches fallen, and building construction sites compromised all over our state," he said.
"The city of Passaic, like other neighboring municipalities, has a natural stream running under our streets (the Passaic River)," Lora added, "so when we get storms like this one, though rarely to this degree, the water rises, the brooks overflow, and as the rain continues to fall it creates these issues."
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