Hurricane Ida Causes Massive Flooding, Killing at Least 17 in Northeast America

At least 17 people died in New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as the remnants of hurricane ida pummeled the Northeast, causing record-breaking rainfall, tornadoes, flash floods and power outages.

Hundreds of stranded New York City residents had to be rescued from cars and subway trains caught in the floods late Wednesday into Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Nine people died from flooding in the city, including eight in basements of residential homes, city officials said. 

New York state and city officials said they were assessing the damage and called the speed of the rainfall unprecedented.

“Even the morning after, we are still uncovering the true depth of the loss,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a news conference Thursday in Queens.

Mr. de Blasio said the city had very little warning about the ferocity of the storm, noting that throughout most of Wednesday forecasts showed a manageable 3 to 6 inches of rain for the entire day.

Remnants hit by Ida to millions in Northeast

“I think now we understand that every attempt at projection, bluntly, is failing us,” he said at the same news conference Thursday. “We’re getting from the very best experts projections that then are made a mockery of in a matter of minutes.”

On Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service warned that Ida’s remnants could cause scattered to widespread flash flooding in urban and poor drainage areas, with rain falling as fast as 1 to 2 inches an hour in the region. The National Weather Service’s New York City station also issued a flash-flood warning in a tweet at 6:51 p.m., and at 9:28 p.m. issued what it said was its first-ever flash-flood emergency for New York City, warning of a “life-threatening situation,” potentially affecting nine million people.

The weather service issued three emergency alerts on New Yorkers’ cellphones between 9 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. Wednesday, warning of flash floods.

Central Park experienced 3.15 inches of rain in one hour Wednesday evening, forecasters said, the highest amount on record.

Authorities in New York City urged residents to keep nonemergency vehicles off the streets and highways, after a travel ban expired at 5 a.m. Thursday. Subway service was limited for the morning commute, with some lines not operating at all due to flooding in stations.

The flooding occurred at the tail end of an abnormally wet summer, when the ground was already saturated, forecasters said.

A 43-year-old woman and her 22-year-old son died in their basement apartment of a colonial house in Hollis, Queens, when their block flooded shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to New York Police Department officials. Mahen Singh, a neighbor of the victims, said he was on his porch when the water levels on his block rose to 4 feet from 1 inch in about 5 minutes.

“I have never seen that happen,” said Mr. Singh, who has lived on the street for 29 years. The husband of the woman and their other son were outside their home when the flooding started and called police when they realized their family members were trapped inside the apartment, Mr. Singh said. Firefighters tried to enter the apartment, but rescue crews didn’t recover the bodies until the water levels dissipated after an hour, he said.

“He was in total shock,” Mr. Singh said of the husband.

Firefighters in Elizabeth, N.J., found four people dead at an apartment complex, said city spokeswoman Kelly Martins. The deceased included a married couple in their early 70s, their 38-year-old son and a 33-year-old neighbor. Ms. Martins said she didn’t know the cause of the deaths but said the area had flooded, and the fire headquarters building across the street had about 8 feet of water.

A 70-year-old person died in Passaic, N.J., after being trapped in a vehicle when water levels rose more than 6 feet, and two people may have been swept into the rain-swollen Passaic River, Mayor Hector C. Lora told CNN on Thursday.

Before the storm, city officials had cleaned storm drains and took other steps to prepare. “But no one could predict the impact that this storm would have with such intense rain,” Mr. Lora said.

Three people died in Montgomery County, Pa., outside Philadelphia, said Valerie Arkoosh, who is chairwoman of the county board of commissioners. She said two victims apparently drowned, and the third fatality was due to structural damage. Emergency crews have conducted more than 450 water rescues—more than triple the previous record for a storm of this type—and some continued Thursday morning, she said, adding that the county received more than 8 inches of rain.

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