President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that he would travel to Manville, New Jersey and Queens, New York on Tuesday to investigate the disastrous effects of Hurricane Ida and its remains.
The nation now learns about the more than 60 people killed by the storm. Many of the victims drowned in cars or were swept away by floods.
Connecticut State Police Sgt. Brian Mohl was among those who died in floods caused by the remains of Hurricane Ida. Several nursing home residents died after being evacuated to a Louisiana warehouse. A 31-year-old New Jersey resident was killed when washed into a 36-inch storm sewer.
At least 25 people died in New Jersey, the highest death toll in any state. Most drowned in their vehicles. A family of three was killed when water leaked into their home in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
In New York City, 11 people died when their low-lying apartments were flooded with rainwater. Among them were a man, a woman and a 2 year old boy in Queens.
Of the six apartments that drowned people in New York City, five were illegal basement apartments, officials said Friday.
At least 50 people died in the northeast from Virginia to Connecticut. At least 14 people were killed in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Several deaths have also been attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly running backup generators.
A way of heartache, of horror:Fall into a hole in the ground. Swimming in houses to stay alive.
September 3:3 policemen cling to trees for hours after being stranded by the Ida flood
Hundreds of thousands in the south were still without power as storm clearance efforts continued.
The Louisiana Department of Health on Saturday ordered the immediate closure of seven nursing homes that were evacuating their residents to a camp facility. Seven residents died, five of whom were related to the storm.
“The lack of consideration for the well-being of these vulnerable residents is a violation of human dignity. We have lost confidence in these nursing homes to provide adequate care for their residents, ”said Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana State Health Commissioner, in a press release.
In New York, the subways started on Friday, but train connections north of the city stopped due to mud-covered tracks. Transportation services in the Hudson Valley were not expected to be restored until early next week.
Firefighters struggled to reach fires in flooded homes and businesses in the northeast, likely caused by gas leaks. The New Jersey banquet room owner watched his business go up in flames on Friday. And the police were traveling door to door looking for victims as the death toll rose.
The carnage comes days after Ida, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US mainland, was wrenched ashore in Louisiana before crashing into the northeast on Wednesday and Thursday. Currently, Ida is the deadliest hurricane in the United States in four years and the deadliest storm in the Northeast since catastrophic superstorm Sandy in 2012, which killed more than 100 people.
Flooded illegal basement apartments are deadly in New York
Illegal basement apartments are re-examined after Ida’s aftermath.
“We have an illegal basement problem,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Friday, adding that many residents of these apartments are afraid to speak about the conditions because they could be evicted.
Illegally converted apartments often have no escape route for emergencies, poor ventilation and improper electrical work, which can pose additional hazards in extreme weather events, according to the city’s housing maintenance and development office.
He said the city will put in place a cell phone warning system or door-to-door evacuations for residents of basement apartments, adding that officials would work with community organizations to reach out to residents at risk. But first the city has to set up a database of these apartments.
New York attorney general Letitia James issued a statement Friday calling on the city to provide New Yorkers with special emergency housing vouchers in illegal basement apartments. She also encouraged regular visits to these apartments.
Mayor urges New Orleans residents to come home after evacuations
At a press conference on Friday, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell encouraged evacuated residents to return home as power is expected to be restored next week.
Cantell said returning residents could take in neighbors and family members who are still without electricity to support ongoing relief efforts.
The city would provide transportation for those in need of public accommodation starting Saturday, Cantell added.
Much of the city was still in the dark on Friday, but according to a Friday statement from Entergy, the company that supplies power to much of southeast Louisiana, power is expected to return to most of New Orleans by Wednesday.
Outside of the city, the hardest-hit parts of the state were left without electricity and running water, and with limited cell phone and gasoline service, almost a week after Ida’s arrival in Louisiana.
Entergy estimates full power restoration for some parts of Louisiana by September 29 or even longer after Ida damaged or destroyed an “astonishing” 22,000 utility poles, Entergy President and CEO Phillip May said, adding Number is more than Hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined.
“The extent of the devastation makes it quite difficult or almost impossible to get into some places and fully assess them,” May said.
According to the Public Service Commission, about 36% of utility customers across the country – more than 800,000 homes and businesses – were without power as of Friday night. But when the storm hit on Sunday, 1.1 million were without power. Entergy says the crews have restored electricity to around 225,000 customers since Ida landed.
Several fallen power lines blocking the lower Mississippi were also removed on Saturday, allowing the waterway to reopen to all traffic in New Orleans and major ports in southeast Louisiana. But the Coast Guard warned seafarers of storm debris and other dangers.
Survivors struggle with the damage left behind
The cleanup continued on Saturday as crews hauled debris and wet vehicles, pumped flooded homes and drained flooded highways. Meanwhile, families looked for loved ones lost in the storm, examined damage to their homes, and took photos for insurance claims. Others pumped water from their flooded basements and cleared fallen trees. For many of them it was the first time that they rated what they had lost to the murky water.
The floor of Gabriella Castillo Natoli’s apartment in Yonkers, a town in Westchester County, New York, feels soft and bows in an unsettling way when she walks on it. Mud and mountains of ruined belongings are scattered.
Castillo Natoli and her husband climbed onto her bed through her bedroom window, “and then I saw everything was floating like the Titanic,” she said. They grabbed what they could and went to their mother’s house.
Along their street lay piles of water-soaked objects that had been dragged out of houses by floods. Chris Minetos lived down the street with his wife and baby.
“It will take months to fix it,” said Minetos, examining the damage to his home.
In the nine years he has lived there, he has never seen floods as bad as this.
“That was scary,” said Minetos.
Featuring: Diana Dombrowski, Eduardo Cuevas, Tiffany Cusaac-Smith, David Propper and Michael P. McKinney, Damon C. Williams, Ashley R. Williams, Rockland / Westchester Journal News; The Associated Press
Contact News Reporter Christine Fernando now at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.