AMERICA: Flooding From Ida Kills 43 People in Four States



At least 43 people were killed, many of them in basement apartments, in a storm caused by the remnants of a hurricane that struck New Orleans days earlier.

Here’s what you need to know:

New Yorkers tried to save neighbors from Ida’s floods. Sometimes they couldn’t.

Philadelphia is inundated by floodwaters as Ida leaves a trail of destruction in the Mid-Atlantic.

Biden calls extreme weather ‘one of the great challenges of our time.’

Transit in the New York City area slowly returns after severe flooding.

The storm’s toll highlighted New York City’s shadow world of basement apartments.

Wreckage everywhere, Niagara Falls in the streets: Scenes from Ida’s path.

Climate change is making storms wetter and wilder. Here’s how.

At least 43 are dead after Ida causes flooding in four states.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida caused flash flooding and a number of deaths and disrupted transit across parts of New York and New Jersey.Credit...Image by Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

In the aftermath of a ferocious storm caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida that killed over three dozen people across four states, national and local leaders acknowledged on Thursday that extreme weather events posed an urgent and ongoing threat.

The storm killed at least 43 people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut and left more than 150,000 homes without power. States of emergency remained in effect across the region by midday Thursday, as officials sought to get a handle on the damage.

Speaking from the White House, President Biden said the damage indicated that “extreme storms and the climate crisis are here,” constituting what he called “one of the great challenges of our time.”

At a news conference in Queens on Thursday morning, Gov. Kathy C. Hochul of New York said she had received a call from Mr. Biden, who she said “offered any assistance” as the state assessed the damage from Ida, a storm that she said represented a new normal. Late Thursday, Mr. Biden approved an emergency declaration for New York and New Jersey, allowing for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

“We need to foresee these in advance, and be prepared,” she said.

The deluge of rain on Wednesday — more than half a foot fell in just a few hours — turned streets and subway platforms into rivers. Emergency responders in boats rescued people from the rooftops of cars. Hundreds of people were evacuated from trains and subways. A tornado in southern New Jersey leveled a stretch of houses. A preliminary report by the National Weather Service determined that the tornado that hit Mullica Hill, N.J., was an F-3 in strength with estimated winds of 150 miles per hour. Some rivers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were still rising.

The rain broke records set just 11 days before by Tropical Storm Henri, underscoring warnings from climate scientists of a new normal on a warmed planet: Hotter air holds more water and allows storms to gather strength more quickly and grow ever larger.

Many of New York City’s subway lines remained suspended into the evening on Thursday. Airports were open, but hundreds of flights had been canceled.

In New York City, the dead ranged in age from a 2-year-old boy to an 86-year-old woman, the police said. Some drowned in basement apartments in Queens, where a system of makeshift and mostly illegally converted living spaces has sprung up.

On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey announced that at least 23 people in the state had died. They included four people found dead in an apartment complex in Elizabeth and two people killed in Hillsborough after they became trapped in their vehicles, local officials said. Another death occurred in Passaic, N.J., where the Passaic River breached its banks and fish flopped in the streets.

Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut announced that the state would lower flags to half-staff to honor Brian Mohl, a state police sergeant whose car was swept away by the floodwaters.

The 3.15 inches of rain that fell in Central Park in one hour on Wednesday eclipsed the record-breaking one-hour rainfall of 1.94 inches on Aug. 21. The National Weather Service, struggling to depict the level of danger, declared a flash flood emergency in New York City for the first time.

In Bergen County, New Jersey’s most populous county, James Tedesco, the county executive and a former firefighter, said on Thursday: “We have not complete devastation but close to it. This is as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”

Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maria Cramer, Isabella Grullón Paz, Matthew Haag, Jesus Jiménez, Michael Levenson, Eduardo Medina, Andy Newman, Azi Paybarah, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Neil Vigdor Ali Watkins and Ashley Wong.

New Yorkers tried to save neighbors from Ida’s floods. Sometimes they couldn’t.

Roxanna Florentino looked at the damage in the basement of the building where she lives in Brooklyn on Thursday. Her neighbor, Roberto Bravo, died there on Wednesday night as surging waters poured in.Credit...Anna Watts for The New York Times

The torrents from Ida’s waters cascaded through New York City basement doors and windows, turning everyday spaces into death traps.

In Woodside, Queens, Deborah Torres said she heard the desperate pleas from the basement of three members of a family, including a toddler.

As the water rushed into the building around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Ms. Torres said she heard the family frantically call out to another neighbor, Choi Sledge. Ms. Sledge pleaded with the family to flee.

Within moments, however, the cascade of water was too powerful, and it also kept anyone from trying to get downstairs to help.

“It was impossible,” said Ms. Torres, who lives on the first floor. “It was like a pool.”

The family did not survive.

Darlene Lee, 48, was in a basement apartment that belonged to the super of a condominium in Central Parkway, Queens. Flooding burst through a glass sliding door in the apartment, and quickly filled it with about six feet of murky water.

The water pinned Ms. Lee between the apartment’s steel front door and the door frame, leaving her wedged and unable to escape.

Patricia Fuentes, the property manager, had just gotten off work when she heard Ms. Lee screaming for help and found her stuck. Ms. Fuentes ran to the lobby to call for aid, and Jayson Jordan, the assistant super, and Andy Tapia, a handyman, jumped through the broken glass door to get to Ms. Lee.

But they could not save her. Ms. Lee was pinned and Mr. Tapia tried to help her keep her above the chin-deep water. Eventually, the men were able to pry her from the door, but it was too late, Mr. Jordan said. Ms. Lee was killed by the storm.

In Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, Ricardo Garcia was awakened by a surge of water that he said exploded through the door of his shared basement apartment at about 10:15 p.m. In moments, it was up to his knees, then his waist, then his chest.

Mr. Garcia, 50, banged on the door next to his, waking another roommate, Oliver De La Cruz, who was shaking on Thursday morning as he looked at the water stains that reached to the ceiling of his ruined road 

Ricardo Garcia, who also lives in the Cypress Hills building’s basement, salvaged what he could from his room. Credit...Anna Watts for The New York Times

“I almost died inside here, I almost died, man,” said Mr. De La Cruz, 22.

Mr. De La Cruz broke down his bedroom door to escape in his boxer shorts. Mr. Garcia said that he and Mr. De La Cruz climbed to the first floor, struggling against the water pouring down the stairs.

Mr. De La Cruz found his upstairs neighbor, Roxanna Florentino, who has lived in the building for 18 years. She said she heard another man, 66-year-old Roberto Bravo, crying out for help from a back bedroom in the basement apartment.

Ms. Florentino said Mr. Bravo was pleading for help in Spanish, and neighbors were trying to reach him. But water was pouring through both the front door and a window. She realized Mr. Bravo’s screaming had stopped.

On Thursday, it was clear that the water had risen so forcefully where Mr. Bravo had been that it tore off the door and broke though the ceiling, leaving dank decay. The Ecuadorean flag hanging on his wall was soaked and muddied, the floor below strewn with debris, along with a water-stained photo of Mr. Bravo in a tuxedo at a formal event.

Ms. Florentino made her first of four 911 calls at 10:15 p.m. Firefighters arrived an hour later. They brought out Mr. Bravo’s body.

She tried to sleep but each time she drifted off, she heard Mr. Bravo’s voice, calling a last time.

“It’s so hard when someone asks for help and you can’t help them,” she said.

Philadelphia is inundated by floodwaters as Ida leaves a trail of destruction in the Mid-Atlantic.

Towns and roads were inundated by floodwaters after the remnants of Hurricane Ida battered eastern Pennsylvania. The storm left a trail of destruction, submerging a portion of one major highway and trapping people in apartment buildings.Credit...Image by Matt Rourke/Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — As Thursday morning began, Ron Harper, 87, was in his apartment 14 floors above a steadily flooding Philadelphia and wondered when he would ever leave.

By late morning, everyone in the building was told to to evacuate, so Mr. Harper found himself walking down 14 flights in an unlit stairwell, wondering when he would ever get back. Still, it could be worse.

“I feel so bad for the people who lost property,” he said.

Those people were all over the region on Thursday, as residents of Mid-Atlantic States awoke to a trail of destruction left behind by remnants of Ida, which struck Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane days before. Tornadoes had touched down in Maryland and in the Philadelphia suburbs, while rain-swollen rivers had flooded small towns — and were still rising.

Officials in Pennsylvania said emergency responders had conducted thousands of water rescues, pulling people out of apartment buildings and cars.

Tens of thousands of people were without power in the Philadelphia area, where a portion of the Vine Street Expressway that runs through the center of the city was submerged.

“Al Gore gave us a wake-up call 20 years ago and no one paid attention,” said Frank Feingold, 76, a retired probation officer and one of about a dozen people taking photos of the flooded interstate where muddy water was lapping the road signs.

The Schuylkill had reached the “major” flood stage designation overnight, leaving cars across the city nearly completely underwater.

“We are still doing water rescues across the city; we’ve done that for the past 15 hours now continually,” Adam Thiel, the Philadelphia fire commissioner, said in a news briefing. “We know that the flooding reached levels that have not been seen in 100 years,” he added. “And potentially this will be a record-breaking flood.”

The mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, emphasized that the storm was part of a pattern of disaster caused by climate change. “Extreme weather events like Ida are not isolated incidents,” he said. “They are another indication of the worsening climate crisis.”

In Manayunk, a neighborhood on the Schuylkill, brown floodwaters swirled through the open doors and windows of restaurants along Main Street, including Pizzeria L’angolo. Its owner, Guido Abbate, stood outside and took stock.

He had put sandbags outside the business around midnight on Wednesday, he said, but the defenses had been rapidly overwhelmed by the floodwaters. He and his family had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in ovens, refrigerators and other equipment, he said, and he was unable to save any of them.

“It was coming so hard that the basement filled up, and it was coming through the heating and air-conditioning vents,” he said. “It came halfway up the windows.”

The remnants of Hurricane Ida spawned a tornado that touched down in Annapolis, Md., on Wednesday.

Some of the hardest-hit areas were in the Philadelphia suburbs. In Montgomery County, officials said at a news briefing that “the size and scope of the damage from this storm has been vast,” with record flooding prompting hundreds of water rescues, and a possible tornado. Three people had died in the county, officials said, two apparently from drowning.

“After last night’s rain, the Schuylkill River and Perkiomen Creek are continuing to rise,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “Both waterways have already surpassed all-time records.”

In Bucks County late Wednesday night, Pennsylvania state troopers tried to reach a car that had driven into floodwaters but had to postpone their efforts when conditions grew too severe. When they returned early Thursday morning, the driver, a 65-year-old man, was found dead in the car.

The Delaware River was still rising in Bucks County on Thursday afternoon. Gene DiGirolamo, a county commissioner, said to reporters that some parts of the county got 10 inches of rain. “I don’t think it would be over the top to say this storm has been catastrophic,” Mr. DiGirolamo said.

The National Weather Service reported at least four tornadoes had touched down in Maryland on Wednesday night and one near Mullica Hill, N.J.

One of those tornadoes ripped a path through southern Anne Arundel County, Md., tearing the roofs from homes and businesses, punching out windows, downing trees, and closing several blocks of an Annapolis business district.

Just south of the city, in the town of Edgewater, power lines lay over the roads, a house sat a few feet back from its foundation and a Toyota Tacoma lay on its roof. An official from the Fire Department said there were no reported injuries, but the storm left residents reeling.

“For me it was just like a flash,” said Carlos Zepeda, who rushed to the basement with his daughter and mother-in-law when he heard the noise. “We tried to find a hiding place, and then it was over.”

When he came outside, he found his neighbor’s grill in his yard, and out back there was a kitchen sink. It wasn’t his.

Reporting was contributed by Jesus Jiménez, Michael Levenson, Isabella Grullón Paz, Eduardo Medina, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Ashley Wong, Brenda Wintrode and Tiffany May.

What we know about the people who died in the flooding.

The 56th Street underpass on Flushing Avenue, where floodwaters rose high and claimed many vehicles attempting to cross earlier.Credit...Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

At least 43 people were killed in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut as the remnants of Hurricane Ida struck the region on Wednesday.

Fifteen people are known to have died in New York, including 13 in New York City, most of whom were found at homes in Queens and Brooklyn and ranged in age from 2 to 86, the police said. Official causes of death will be determined later by the city’s medical examiner, the department said.

Another victim, Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Weissmandl, was killed after being trapped by floodwaters near the Tappan Zee Bridge while driving home to Mount Kisco, N.Y., from Monsey.

At least 23 people were killed in New Jersey, according to Gov. Philip D. Murphy.

They included four people whose bodies were found in an apartment complex in Elizabeth, across the street from a flooded firehouse, said Kelly Martins, a city spokeswoman.

Two people were killed in Hillsborough, N.J., after they became trapped in their vehicles, a spokeswoman for the town said. Two people were also killed in Bridgewater Township, N.J., according to the police.

One man was found dead in Passaic, N.J., after being trapped in a car in rapidly rising floodwaters, Mayor Hector C. Lora said, and a body was found inside a pickup truck in Hunterdon County, N.J., said Henry Schepens, the mayor of Milford.

Four people also died in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania officials said, at least three of them from drowning.

And at least one person, a Connecticut State Police sergeant, died in Woodbury after his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, the police said in a news conference.

Many of the flood’s victims in New York lived in basement apartments, some of which were subterranean dwellings carved out illegally from larger homes and may have lacked the emergency egress required of legitimate apartments. Comparatively low-cost living spaces, they are a refuge of thousands of the city’s poor, even as they are known to be firetraps.

Three of the dead in New York City — a 2-year-old boy, a 48-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man — were found at a home on 64th Street in Woodside, Queens.

There, Choi Sledge, who lives on the third floor of the house, said she received a frantic call from a woman who lives in the basement apartment, whom she identified as Mingma Sherpa, around 9:30 p.m.

“She said, ‘The water is coming in right now,’ and I say: ‘Get out! Get to the third floor!’” Ms. Sledge recalled.

“The last thing I hear from them is, ‘The water coming in from the window.’ And that was it.” She identified the other two people who died as Ms. Sherpa’s partner, Lobsang Lama, and their son, known as Ang.

The oldest known victim in New York was an 86-year-old woman in Glendale, Queens.

Andy Newman, Chelsia Rose Marcius, Jonah E. Bromwich Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Matthew Goldstein, Maria Cramer, Azi Paybarah Sarah Maslin Nir and Tiffany May contributed reporting.

Biden calls extreme weather ‘one of the great challenges of our time.’

President Biden addressed the damage caused by Hurricane Ida as it moved across the eastern part of the country and said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was on the ground to provide assistance to those affected.Credit...Image by Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

President Biden on Thursday said the flash floods that inundated New York City and high-speed winds that left hundreds of thousands without power in Louisiana were a sign that “extreme storms and the climate crisis are here” and that the storms and fires creating life-or-death situations across the country constituted “one of the great challenges of our time.”

“Hurricane Ida didn’t care if you were a Democrat or Republican, rural or urban,” Mr. Biden said, urging Congress to pass his economic agenda when it returned from its recess later this month, in order to provide critical investments in electrical infrastructure. “This destruction is everywhere. And it’

Courtesy: New York Times

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