August 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Patrons stand on tables at Warren pizzeria as flood waters rise: 'It was surreal'

People were rescued Monday night at Buddy's Pizza in Warren. (Brett Mangold / Courtesy photo)

Warren — Flat Rock resident Lisa Tefend knew things were bad when she saw a garbage can floating by the window of the restaurant in which she was dining.

“It was raining hard when we entered, but there was no flooding when we sat down,” said Tefend, who was dining with a friend at Buddy’s Pizza at about 6:30 p.m. Monday. “By the time our food arrived, the parking lot was under water. It was so fast that we had no time to respond.”

Then the restaurant began to fill with people who came in to get out of the rain. Pretty soon there were at least 125 people stranded in the restaurant, near Van Dyke and Old 13 Mile in Warren.

“Then the water started coming into the restaurant,” said Tefend, who works as a registered nurse. “It kept getting higher and higher until we were standing on window sills and tables. It was surreal.”

Once the restaurant began to flood, one woman had a seizure and went into cardiac arrest. She was taken away on a stretcher by authorities.

Rescuers with a motor boat then worked to assist other people in the restaurant.

“They took three or four people at a time, starting with kids and then senior citizens,” Tefend said. “We were taken to a Lowe’s across the street. There were at least a thousand people stranded there. It was like a scene from ‘The Walking Dead.’ ”

They stayed there until about 1 a.m. Tuesday and then were taken to the Warren Community Center.

"The fireman wouldn't let us leave because the water was up to here," said Donna Muschong of Sterling Heights, pointing to her neck. "Because we would've drowned or whatever.”

Tefend said cots were set up and people were given food and drinks.

“I can’t praise those people enough,” Tefend said. “Everyone worked together, the firemen, Salvation Army and emergency workers. We even had warm muffins for breakfast on Tuesday.

“Warren did a great job as did the wonderful people at Buddy’s.”

Wesley Pikula, Buddy's Pizza vice president of operations who came during the flooding, lauded customers for their patience.

"The people in the restaurant were amazing," Pikula said. "They waited and our staff did all they could."

Pikula helped droves of customers coming back to claim their vehicles Tuesday morning.

The parking lot was coated with a layer of sand after rising waters from Bear Creek, which winds around the parking lot, overflowed into it.

"It happened pretty fast," Pikula said. "Once that creek starts going, it's over because I mean it's taking water from everywhere. It sort of came in and everything started backing up"

Disaster restoration workers began cleaning up the pizzeria, which Pikula said he expects to be open Wednesday.

In total, about three dozen cars were swallowed by the rising waters Monday night at Buddy's.

"By the time we realized how bad it was, we couldn't get out," said Lisa Mangold, who was enjoying dinner with her family until the flood occurred. "People were in their cars in the middle hoping they could save them."

Water reached up past car windows and other vehicles were completely submerged, including Mangold's Mini Cooper and four of her relatives’ cars.

"My daughters car cup holders are full of water," she said.

On Tuesday, Tefend returned to Buddy’s to take a look at her vehicle, a brand new 2014 Lincoln MKX.

“The last time I saw it, water was up to the top of the windows,” Tefend said. “The entire car is run by electronics and apparently the electrons went wild, because when I found my car all the windows were down, letting in all that water.

“Needless to say my car is totaled. I hope my insurance covers it.”
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Wesley Pikula sits in the drivers seat to start Lisa Tefend's car with ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)
At least 125 people stranded in Buddy's Pizzeria, near Van Dyke and Old 13 ... (Brett Mangold)