NEW YORK – The death toll from the remains of Hurricane Ida’s stunning explosion through the northeast rose to eight Thursday after heavy downpours and localized flooding overwhelmed much of the region.
At least seven people were killed in the storm in New York City, police said. In New Jersey, Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said a person died there in a submerged car. Floods have also been reported in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. More than 230,000 households and businesses in the region were without electricity on Thursday morning.
In New York, floods in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn turned main streets into rivers and inundated basement and ground floor apartments as the heavy rain pelted the city for several hours on Wednesday evening. The New York Office of the National Weather Service has declared a flash flood emergency, a rare warning for situations where the flood “creates serious threats to life and catastrophic damage.”
The city’s emergency management warned all residents to avoid overnight travel. Videos shared on social media revealed that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway was impassable, cars were stuck in the streets of Elmhurst, Queens, and water was racing in Manhattan subway stations.
New York police responded to numerous emergency calls, but the department did not have an initial record on Thursday morning of how many water rescues they were involved in.
In Brooklyn, Dan Melamid was on the phone with a friend when he looked out the window of his apartment and saw the water level.
“I thought it was Noah’s Ark,” he said.
He grabbed his flip-flops – the first available shoes – and ran to his car before the floods could pick it up and move it, a fate other drivers around McCarren Park could not avoid. The water was almost in his car when he got there, but he was able to find a spot a few blocks away from the worst of the flooding. In the scramble, he lost a flip-flop.
“I had to walk home barefoot,” he says.
The National Weather Service registered 3.15 inches of rain in New York’s Central Park late Wednesday in an hour, beating the 1.94 inches record set in an hour during Tropical Storm Henri less than two weeks ago.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Wednesday evening as the National Weather Service also warned that water-saturated New Jersey was at risk from tornadoes.
New York’s FDR Drive, a major thoroughfare in east Manhattan, and the Bronx River Parkway were flooded late Wednesday night.
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NYC subway status changing for morning rush
Subway stations and tracks were so flooded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shut down all services. Videos posted on the Internet showed subway drivers standing on seats in cars filled with water.
Although the rain stopped overnight, flooding continued to occur in 21 areas of the New York City subway system as of 6 a.m., incumbent MTA chairman Janno Lieber told NY1. Pumping continued and subway service was supposed to increase, but Lieber declined to predict when the system would be fully operational again.
“The service has largely been suspended due to heavy rains and floods across the region,” MTA said in a message posted at 5 a.m. on its website. “Please avoid all unnecessary travel at this point.”
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Over 230,000 without electricity in the entire northeast
According to the tracking website poweroutage.us, nearly 100,000 households and businesses across Pennsylvania were without power as of Thursday morning. Another 60,000 were groping in the dark in New Jersey and more than 40,000 in New Jersey. Another 30,000 households and businesses in Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were without power.
“Our crews are working around the clock to recover from failures and prevent flood damage to electrical equipment in the hardest hit areas of the Ida remains,” Pennsylvania Power and Light told Power and Light in a tweet.
Historic rainfall in Pennsylvania
In Philadelphia, flooding on the Schuylkill River forced officials to close portions of the Vine Street Expressway and the Schuylkill Expressway, two major arteries. Across the state, about 3,000 people were evacuated near the city of Johnstown – where more than 2,000 people were killed in the great flood of 1889 – after heavy rains threatened a local dam.
Ida could go down as one of the wettest storms in central Pennsylvania, according to the National Weather Service. Some areas reported more than six inches of rain, flooded roads, and overflowing streams. The region had a number of warnings or guards for tornadoes, thunderstorms, and flash floods.
New Jersey residents were urged to stay clear of roads
“Stay off the streets, stay home and stay safe,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Twitter amid dozen of videos that went viral on social media and streets with fast flowing water demonstrate. Murphy declared a state of emergency in all 21 boroughs of New Jersey.
Shattering footage showed water in Newark Liberty International Airport and water pouring into baggage facilities. The airport announced on Twitter that it had suspended all flight activities from 10.30 p.m. Limited flights began a few hours later.
New Jersey Transit said almost all train services have been suspended.
“All light rail vehicles and buses are subject to suspensions, diversions and delays due to widespread weather problems,” the agency tweeted.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Virginia. Featuring: Christal Hayes and Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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