NEW YORK – The death toll from the remnants of Hurricane Ida’s stunning blast through the Northeast rose to at least 14 Thursday after a wide swath of the region became overwhelmed by fierce downpours and localized flooding.
At least eight people in New York City died in the storm, police said. In New Jersey, five people were found dead in an apartment complex after more than six inches of rain drenched the city of Elizabeth, Mayor Chris Bollwage said. Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said one person died there in a submerged car. Passaic officials also said they fear a woman and her child were swept away by the flooding.
In Pennsylvania, “multiple fatalities” were reported in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia, county spokesperson Kelly Cofrancisco said. Details were not immediately available.
Flooding was also reported in Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. More than 230,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power Thursday morning.
The carnage comes days after Hurricane Ida barreled ashore Sunday in Louisiana packing 150-mph winds. At least seven deaths had been reported earlier, including two each in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and one in Maryland. Power remained out to almost 1 million Louisiana power customers Thursday.
In New York, flooding turned major streets into rivers and swamped basement and first-floor apartments as the heavy rain pounded the city for multiple hours Wednesday night. The National Weather Service office in New York declared a flash flooding emergency, a rare warning for situations where the flooding is “leading to a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that a travel advisory was in effect, and that all non-emergency vehicles are advised to stay off of city streets while clean-up continued.
“Our hearts ache for the lives lost in last night’s storm,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “They were our fellow New Yorkers and to their families, your city will be there for you in the days ahead.’
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency. New York’s FDR Drive, a major artery on the east side of Manhattan, and the Bronx River Parkway were under water late Wednesday evening. Videos shared on social media showed the Brooklyn Queens Expressway impassible, cars stuck in streets in Elmhurst, Queens, and water racing into subway stations in Manhattan.
New York police responded to numerous 911 calls, but the department did not have an initial tally of how many water rescues it was involved in as of Thursday morning.
In Brooklyn, Dan Melamid was on the phone with a friend when he looked out the window of his apartment and saw how high the water was getting.
“I thought this was Noah’s Ark,” he said.
He grabbed his flip-flops – the first shoes available – and ran to his car before the floodwaters could sweep it away, a fate other drivers couldn’t avoid near McCarren Park. The water was nearly into his car when he got to it, but he was able to find a spot several blocks from worst flooding. In the scramble, he lost a flip-flop.
“I had to walk home barefoot,” he said.
The National Weather Service recorded 3.15 inches of rain in New York’s Central Park in one hour late Wednesday, far surpassing the record 1.94 inches that fell in one hour during Tropical Storm Henri less than two weeks ago.
Cedric Lewis, 27, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, said he saw what looked like a new pond in Central Park on Thursday morning. The water nearly submerged a tunnel, and Lewis estimated the flooding was about 7 feet deep.
“It looks like there’s supposed to be a pond here. There are ducks swimming.” Lewis said, describing the scene a similar to something out of “The Wizard of Oz.” “You could dive off the bridge into this water and it’d be fine.”
Amtrak suspended train service between Philadelphia and Boston for departures scheduled before noon Thursday.
NYC subway status in flux for morning rush
Subway stations and tracks became so flooded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended all service. Videos posted online showed subway riders standing on seats in cars filled with water.
Although the rain had ended overnight, 21 areas of the New York City subway system still had some flooding as of 6 a.m., acting MTA Chairman Janno Lieber told NY1. Pumping was continuing, and subway service should increase, but Lieber declined to predict when the system would return to full service.
“Service is largely suspended due to heavy rainfall and flooding across the region,” MTA said in a 5 a.m. notice on its website. “Please avoid all unnecessary travel at this time.”