Elizabeth, NJ (AP) – Police went door-to-door in search of more possible victims and compiled a missing list as the death toll in the devastating floods across the Northeast by the remnants of Hurricane Ida rose to 49 on Friday.
The disaster underscored with heartbreaking clarity how vulnerable America is to the extreme weather that climate change is bringing. In its wake, officials weighed in on far-reaching new measures to save lives in future storms.
More than three days after storms hit Louisiana, the remnants of Ida’s rain hit the Northeast with surprising fury on Wednesday and Thursday, inundating cars, swamping subway stations and basement apartments, and five People drowned in the states.
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Intense rain never meant an urban drainage system could handle so much water in such a short amount of time – a record 3 inches in just one hour in New York. Dartmouth University researcher Evan Dethier said seven rivers in the Northeast have reached their highest levels.
On Friday, communities worked to retrieve wrecked vehicles, clear out homes and highways, clear debris and other debris, and restore mass transportation.
Even after the clouds went into the blue sky, some rivers and streams were still rising. A portion of the swollen Pacific River in New Jersey was not expected to crest as of Friday night.
“People think it’s beautiful, which is that this thing is behind us and we can go back to business as usual, and we’re not there yet,” warned New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
At least 25 people died in New Jersey, the most of any state. Most of their vehicles drowned after being caught in the flash floods. Three people and their neighbor died after 12 to 14 feet of water flooded their apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Across the street, Jennifer Vilchez said she could hear people crying, “Help! Help!” from their windows.
Murphy said at least six people were missing in the state.
In New York City, 11 people died after they were unable to survive the rising water in their low-lying apartments. A man, a woman and a 2-year-old boy were killed as their Queens street, surrounded by a concrete wall, turned into a bustling alley on the nearby Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
New York’s subways were running late on Friday or not at all. To the north of the city, commuter train service remained suspended or severely suspended. Train tracks in the Hudson Valley sank several feet of mud.
Floodwaters and a fallen tree also killed in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
While the tornado devastated homes and electrical grids in Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving more than 800,000 people without electricity as of Friday, it proved fatal more than 1,000 miles, with the death toll in the Northeast taking 13 lives. Has gone. Quite south.
Ida stands as the deadliest hurricane to hit the US in four years.
In the second wave of disaster in the Northeast, homes and businesses caught fire, many inaccessible to firefighters due to flood waters. Officials said the gas leak caused by the floods could be attributed to it.
A fire broke out at a Manville banquet hall in New Jersey around 2 a.m. Friday. Its owner, Jayesh Mehta, said he felt helpless and bewildered after watching the video of his burning business.
“I don’t know what to do and how to deal with something like this,” Mehta told NJ Advance Media.
In Philadelphia, part of the Crosstown Vine Street Expressway was inundated after the Schuylkill River reached its highest level since 1902. Where the road had dried up, an inch thick layer of soil was left behind.
Officials said they want to reopen the highway by Saturday afternoon, when thousands are expected to turn up for the two-day Made in America music festival, which Mayor Jim Kenney insisted will go as planned.
In New York City, teams of police officers knock on doors to investigate what was left behind. Police reviewed emergency calls when the storm struck where people may have been in harm’s way. On Wednesday night, calls to the city’s 911 system went up to 12 times higher than normal.
In Wilmington, Delaware, crews rescued more than 200 people after the Brandywine River reached record levels, swamping roads, bridges and homes. No major injuries were reported.
Ida hit the coast on Sunday in Louisiana, was the fifth-strongest hurricane to hit the US mainland, then moved north. Forecasters warned of dangerous flooding, but the intensity of the storm stunned the nation’s most densely populated metropolitan corridor.
In Manville, New Jersey, people evacuated by the storm told the same story: an immediate knock on the door, a wall of water crashed into their apartment, rescued by boat and taken to higher ground—until that. The ground didn’t even flood, a second rescue was needed.
Richie Leonardis, a 60-year-old who has a leg amputated and uses a wheelchair, said a siren went off at around 4 a.m. Thursday. Within minutes, the police knocked on his door and urged him to vacate.
“When I opened the door, the water went in and almost knocked me out of my wheelchair,” he said. “The police had to catch me to save me from going underwater.”
Richard Leoncini said that when he opened his door, 6 feet of water flowed in, knocking him backwards.
“The fire department came and put me in a boat,” said Leoncini, 65. “You’re waiting for that boat to arrive and you’re in your apartment surrounded by water and you’re thinking, ‘How do I get out of this?'”
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Leaders of some states resolved to examine whether anything could be done to prevent recurrence of such devastation.
Both New Jersey and New York have spent billions of dollars in flood prevention since Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, but much of that work focused primarily on protecting communities from seawater, not rain.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the region needs to turn its attention to stormwater systems that are unprepared to handle the future of more frequent flooding due to climate change.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would work to get people off streets, subway trains and basement apartments before a big rain, and would ban travel as it does during a big snowfall. He said the city would also send out cellphone alerts warning people to leave basement apartments and send city workers to shelters.
“It’s not just telling people that you have to move out of your apartment,” de Blasio said. “It’s going door-to-door with our first responders and other city agencies to get people out.”