"It was like something out of a movie," Tony Luu told ABC News.
As a Saturday night storm dropped hail and brought flash flooding throughout Omaha streets, Luu and his two friends decided to check out the extent of the damage outside his downtown apartment.
They boarded the elevator around 10 p.m. local time. When they reached the lobby, water came rushing through the vents into the elevator before its doors could open.
"Once it got to my stomach, we kind of figured, 'Ok, this is real,'" Tony said.
He recorded video of the terrifying moment, which shows the floodwater as high as his armpit while his friend calls 911.
"OK, can you please just hurry?" his friend is heard saying in the video,
Meanwhile, Luu called his roommate, who works in maintenance for the building.
"We might die if you don't come help us," he said on the phone.
Before emergency responders arrived, Luu's roommate, brother and a third person were able to open the elevator door from the lobby. At this point, the water was up to Tony's neck, and he was standing on the elevator's railing.
When the doors finally opened, the water rushed out.
"I was swimming out," Luu said.
None of the three people stuck in the elevator were hurt.
Meteorologists say about 3 to 5 inches of rain fell in Omaha Saturday. At least one other rescue was reported after two people became stranded on the roof of their car amid rising floodwaters.