Ida Brings Historic Flooding To Northeast, And Kills 10 People Across 4 States
Updated September 2, 2021 at 9:55 AM ET
The summer of wild weather continues.
Hurricane Ida's remnants brought catastrophic levels of rain to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Wednesday into Thursday, triggering state-wide emergencies as well as the first flash-flood emergency ever issued for New York City.
The storm is blamed for at least 10 deaths, including seven people in New York City and one each in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
One flooding victim was just two years old, the New York Police Department said.
"We're enduring an historic weather event tonight with record breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted as the deluge prompted him to declare a state of emergency late Wednesday.
Floodwaters halted road, train, and air traffic in New York and New Jersey.
In areas where the historic rainfalls have now passed, officials are anxiously watching river levels that are rising to rare heights, creating new dangers and disruptions.
New flooding hits in Philadelphia and elsewhere
In areas where the historic rainfalls have now passed, officials are anxiously watching river levels that are rising to rare heights. And as the sun rose on Thursday, many people in the Northeast remained under emergency alerts.
The Schuylkill River is rising to dangerous levels in Philadelphia, where Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel told local media that the river was at heights not seen in more than 150 years — and that the water was still rising.
In an updated prediction, the National Weather Service said the Schuylkill River will likely crest at 17.2 feet — higher than ever recorded — around 9 a.m. ET.
All of eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Delaware are under a flash flood watch, until 2 p.m. Thursday. Local officials said they will continue to monitor flooding of the Delaware River around parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The perilous weather comes less than two weeks after Henri prompted a rare hurricane watch for New England, fueling concern that dangerous weather patterns are becoming the new normal.
Climate change has been tied to the more common occurrence of major hurricanes globally, as well as the increase of hurricanes in the Atlantic. In addition to strong winds, many of the most dangerous storms in recent years have brought tremendous amounts of rain – creating new threats to infrastructure and people who live far from the coast.
Rainfall in New York City makes history
The rain fell particularly hard and fast Wednesday evening in New York City: Between 6 and 10 inches over the course of several hours.
A new record of 3.15 inches of rain fell in Central Park in one hour, according to the National Weather Service. That surpasses the 1.94 inches that fell in one hour during Tropical Storm Henri last month, which was thought to be the most ever recorded in the park.
Waist-level floodwaters caused significant travel delays throughout the city. Most subway lines had to be shut down, leaving commuters stranded and, in some cases, needing to be rescued by the fire department.
The fast-moving storm quickly became deadly overnight, as emergency calls poured in to police.
In Brooklyn, officers found the body of a 66-year-old man at his home.
In the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, police said they entered a house to find a 48-year-old woman unresponsive. She was transferred to Forest Hills Hospital where she was later pronounced dead.
Also in Queens, police discovered the bodies of a 50-year-old man, a 48-year-old woman, and a 2-year-old boy, also at a residence.
And in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, police came across a 45-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man at a house. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman was transferred to Queens General Hospital and pronounced dead there.
Police are still investigating the cause of each of these deaths. The identities of the victims were not immediately disclosed.
Authorities pleaded with travelers not to attempt to drive through flooded roadways, but the New York City Fire Department reported needing to rescue several motorists. To prevent similar issues, the city issued a travel ban on all non-essential vehicles from New York City streets and highways until early Thursday.
Air travel was also halted, with New York City airports LaGuardia and JFK reporting temporary flight disruptions.
Videos shared on Twitter show shocking scenes from Brooklyn to Staten Island.
Along the city's busy streets and highways, one bus driver navigated floodwaters in and outside his vehicle to get passengers to safety. In other areas, water was seen pouring down the stairway of one apartment building, and into an underground subway station.
At least one man was seen making the most of the weather. A TikTok video shows an unbothered man floating on a raft smoking a hookah.
New Jersey transit halted due to floods
In neighboring New Jersey, PowerOutage.us reported more than 73,000 power outages early Thursday.
Newark's airport was temporarily evacuated Wednesday evening after flood water got into the Terminal B baggage claim and ground-level floors of the airport. All flights in and out of the airport were cancelled for a time.
New Jersey Transit also suspended rail service, except for the Atlantic City Line, Wednesday.
In Passaic, N.J., the city's Mayor Hector Lora reported at least one man in his 70s died after the car he was riding in was overtaken by water.
Rain was not New Jersey's only concern Wednesday.
The National Weather Service confirmed at least one tornado seriously damaged homes in Mullica Hill, in southern New Jersey near Philadelphia. One video shared online showed at least one home completely destroyed.
"Just spoke with Harrison Township Mayor Lou Manzo about the devastating tornado that ripped through the Mullica Hill community and surrounding area tonight," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted. "We're closely monitoring the situation and will do whatever is needed to support the response & recovery in the days ahead."
Flooding was also a serious issue.
Residents in parts of Trenton, New Jersey were urged to evacuate after city officials said the Delaware River posed a serious flooding risk--the first of its kind in 10 years. The effected areas impacted at least 500 homes.
Captain Jason Astbury of the Trenton Police Department told those residents they should at least be prepared to be gone for potentially two days until floodwaters are cleared.
Southwestern Connecticut also suffered flooding, and police in Fairfield reported "numerous" vehicles were submerged or stuck, according to Connecticut Public Radio. Many school districts have either canceled or delayed classes for Thursday.
"Many Connecticut roads were impassable due to flooding as of Thursday morning, including I-395 Northbound in Waterford," the station reports. "Both Amtrak and MetroNorth suspended rail service in Connecticut."
Tornadoes strike in Maryland and Pennsylvania
Multiple tornados touched down in Maryland and Pennsylvania Wednesday.
Local news channel ABC6 reported that one woman died in southeastern Pennsylvania after a tree came down onto a home.
"We were struck very hard with significant damage to the township building, to the high school, multiple homes, buildings at Temple's Ambler campus, and right now we really don't know exactly how bad the damage is," Upper Dublin Township Manager Paul Leonard told ABC6.
Pennsylvania recorded more than 97,000 power outages on Thursday morning.
Earlier on Wednesday, a tornado touched down in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, causing serious damage to homes and businesses. The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in Annapolis at 2:15 p.m. Heavy rains also caused isolated flooding in the towns of Rockville and Frederick.
Floodwaters were blamed for the death of a 19-year-old man in Rockville, Md., early Wednesday morning. Melkin Daniel Cedillo drowned in the flooding at Rock Creek Woods Apartments, according to Montgomery County Police. Residents of that building were forced to evacuate.
NPR's Jasmine Garsd contributed to this report.
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