UncategorizedNYC and NJ Flooding: Live Updates on Rising Deaths and Rescue Efforts

NYC and NJ Flooding: Live Updates on Rising Deaths and Rescue Efforts


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Ida Paralyzes the New York City Area

The remnants of Hurricane Ida caused flash flooding and a number of deaths and disrupted transit across parts of New York and New Jersey.

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

The New York region’s death toll from the remnants of Hurricane Ida grew on Friday with the announcement of two more deaths in New Jersey, bringing the total number of lives lost to 25 in the state and 45 across the region.

Authorities fear the toll will increase further: Gov. Phillip D. Murphy of New Jersey said at least six people were still missing in the floods. “This was a deadly and dangerous storm, and we continue to face its aftereffects,” he said at a morning news conference. The dead also include at least 15 people in New York, four in Pennsylvania and one in Connecticut.

As the region begins the daunting task of assessing damage from the storm, digging out and cleaning up, Mr. Murphy, speaking in Millburn, a Newark suburb whose downtown was overwhelmingly flooded, said the state would quickly make $10 million in aid available to small businesses.

The aid will be distributed in grants of $1,000 to $5,000. “If you’ve been crushed and you can prove it, you’re eligible,” Mr. Murphy said.

Mr. Murphy and Gov. Kathy C. Hochul of New York both said that they were expecting large infusions of recovery aid from the federal government once a federal disaster has been declared, something that President Biden is expected to do after his declaration Thursday night of federal emergency status for New York and New Jersey.

Ms. Hochul said Friday morning that New York would easily surpass a $30 million threshold required to receive federal assistance.

There are no figures yet on the extent of property damage caused by the storm, which dumped half a foot of water in just a few hours across parts of the region, but many hundreds of homes, at least, were damaged.

In New Jersey, the Red Cross housed 330 people in temporary shelters Thursday night, and in New York, one Red Cross shelter, in Mamaroneck in Westchester County, put up 125 people on Wednesday night, Red Cross spokespeople said.

As of Friday morning, nearly 50,000 homes in the region were still without power, including 26,000 in Pennsylvania, 12,000 in New Jersey and nearly 8,000 in New York.

The status of mass transit in the region remains spotty. Most New York City subway lines are running regular service. But on commuter rails, all service of Metro-North Railroad is either suspended or limited, and three New Jersey Transit lines — the Gladstone, Pascack Valley and Raritan Valley — remain shut down. Long Island Rail Road service is back to normal.

Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York spoke about the state’s death toll on Friday: “It’s hard to even read those numbers, because those numbers are people.”
Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Friday that an estimated 7,800 New Yorkers remained without power after Ida’s torrential rains inundated the region, killing at least 15 people in the state.

“It’s hard to even read those numbers, because those numbers are people,” Ms. Hochul said during the morning briefing in Westchester County, where she said two people had died.

A day after President Biden approved an emergency declaration in New York, which will open up additional federal resources, including shelter support, state officials were just beginning to assess and cleanup the storm’s damage, which Ms. Hochul said would easily surpass the $30 million threshold required to receive federal assistance.

Ms. Hochul said that 11 roads, from the Bronx to Rockland County, were fully or partially closed. She said the Metro-North Railroad system had sustained severe damage and “was not in good shape right now,” stressing that repairing it was “not going to happen very quickly.”

She said she had deployed officials from the Department of Financial Services to help homeowners and businesses file insurance claims to receive reimbursements for damages, urging property owners to keep “good records.”

“Homeowners, keep track of everything you have to spend to get your houses cleaned up and restored as best you can and then we’ll take it from there,” she said.

Questions have already emerged over whether city and state officials were adequately prepared for the storm. While the state deployed emergency resources before the storm, for example, Ms. Hochul did not declare a state of emergency until early Thursday, when the brunt of Ida’s rains had already inundated roads and train tracks.

“We did not know that we’d be in the same vulnerable situation with loss of life and property destruction,” she said, referring to the damage from Ida just days earlier in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Ms. Hochul stressed that the staggering amount of rainfall that drenched the state in such a short window of time caught officials and meteorologists off guard on Wednesday night. “I think the meteorologists are surprised,” she said, adding that “Mother Nature does what she wants.”

She said that people were properly warned about the flash floods via text, but that perhaps the warnings should have been translated into more languages or had failed to reach the “vulnerable population” living in basement apartments where many died.

“We have to get a better system for evacuations and deploy people on the ground in these events and not hope that they got a message,” Ms. Hochul said. “I’m not even sure they own a cellphone.”

Even so, she openly questioned whether the state could have done more to alert New Yorkers or to evacuate the subway system before stations began to flood. She promised to convene a task force to tackle such questions and put together an after-action report to determine if there were any “missed opportunities.”

“I want to know exactly what we did right,” Ms. Hochul said. “If there’s any areas that were shortcomings, I want to know what they are and how we address them.”

Ms. Hochul, a Democrat who was sworn in as governor last week in the wake of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s resignation, was joined on Friday by elected officials who represent the area, including Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic leader of the State Senate, and Representative Jamaal Bowman.

“I don’t ever want again to see Niagara Falls rushing down the stairs of one of the New York City subways,” Ms. Hochul said. “I can’t prevent it right now, but I know we have to take action to mitigate that.”

At the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station in Brooklyn on Thursday. Service on the system was gradually improving by Friday morning.<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Avenue%E2%80%93Barclays_Center_station"><br /></a>
Credit…Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Most of New York City’s subway lines were back to normal Friday afternoon, two days after the remnants of Hurricane Ida barreled through the region, bringing torrential rains and deadly flooding.

As of Friday afternoon, a majority of the lines were back in service with a handful of delays and partial suspensions. (Check the latest service updates here.)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been conducting round-the-clock repairs to get the nation’s largest subway system fully running again after the storm damaged tracks and turned platforms and stairwells into water slides.

“We’ve managed to restore a ton of service today but our tracks in Queens suffered the most damage,” the M.T.A. said on Twitter on Thursday night, urging those traveling in Queens to consider taking the Long Island Railroad instead.

Amtrak said it would resume service along the Northeast Corridor, between Washington and Boston, on Friday, but it said trains between Albany and New York City would remain canceled.

New Jersey Transit said all train lines except Pascack Valley and Raritan Valley would operate on a regular weekday schedule on Friday, with the Main-Bergen County Line temporarily suspended for a pedestrian fatality near Garfield unrelated to the storm. Bus service was running on a weekday schedule, but with some delays and detours.

The Long Island Rail Road resumed full service by Friday, with some disruptions spilling into the morning. On the Metro-North Railroad, train service resumed Friday morning for the New Haven Line and the Harlem Line after workers cleared more than 10 inches of water and debris from several stations. The Hudson Line, which suffered the most damage, remained suspended.

“Our crews have made extraordinary progress over the last 24 hours in extremely difficult conditions,” Catherine Rinaldi, president of Metro-North, said in a statement Thursday night. “I cannot thank our crew members enough for the heroic work they have been doing and will continue to do.”

Flights on Friday morning out of La Guardia Airport, Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport largely appeared to be on time with minimal delays.

In response to questions during a news conference Friday on how the M.T.A. could strengthen its system against future storms, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for the state to move quickly to implement congestion pricing. Mr. de Blasio also pointed to federal stimulus money included in President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, part of which the city would use to strengthen its public transit.

“We need resources on a vast scale to fix the M.T.A.,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Congestion pricing will bring us the regular revenue to constantly make improvements.”

The authorities responding to a basement apartment in Queens on Thursday, where flooding killed three people.
Credit…Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

The warnings and maps seemed clear.

On Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service issued a prediction that a wide swath of the Ohio Valley and the Eastern Seaboard would soon see heavy rainfall from what had once been Hurricane Ida. And one of the reddest portions of those maps — indicating severe rainfall and a high probability of flooding — hovered directly over New York City.

Those predictions proved true. But the record intensity of the rain, with more than three inches falling in one hour, caught officials by surprise. And on Thursday, as the death toll in the Northeast increased, questions quickly arose as to whether city and state officials were caught flat-footed by the storm’s ferocity.

The destruction in the New York region seemed especially striking considering that Ida had already blown through the Gulf Coast, hitting New Orleans on Sunday with far stronger winds but with fewer deaths.

It also came in the wake of a series of ever-more-powerful tropical storms — including 2012’s Hurricane Sandy — which have been repeatedly cited as warning signs that the city’s aging infrastructure and subways are vulnerable to the violent weather caused by climate change. The subways, in particular, have come to act as a default sewer whenever heavy rains overwhelm the city’s actual sewer system.

The storm’s devastation underscored the city’s increasing fragility in the age of global warming, but also illustrated how the unpredictability of weather events can topple even the best laid of plans.

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 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.

Credit…via Pablo Bravo

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.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

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.

Manhattan on Wednesday evening. In the Northeast, the strongest 1 percent of storms now produce 55 percent more rainfall than they did in the middle of the 20th century.
Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

The torrential rains on Wednesday that soaked New York and New Jersey carried a stark warning about climate change: As the planet gets hotter, heavy rainstorms are dumping more water than ever before, threatening to devastate unprepared cities.

Across the continental United States, the heaviest downpours have become more frequent and severe in recent decades, according to the federal government’s National Climate Assessment. In the Northeast, the strongest 1 percent of storms now produce 55 percent more rainfall than they did in the middle of the 20th century.





Sept. 1, 2021

Between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., Ida dropped a record 3.24 inches of rain in Newark — nearly an inch more rain than the previous hourly record in 2006.

July 21, 2006

Severe thunderstorms led to a one-hour precipitation total of 2.35 inches between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Sept. 1, 2021

Ida also produced the seventh-highest hourly rainfall, dropping 1.82 inches between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Sept. 1, 2021

Between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., Ida dropped a record 3.24 inches of rain in Newark — nearly an inch more rain than the previous hourly record in 2006.

July 21, 2006

Severe thunderstorms led to a one-hour precipitation total of 2.35 inches between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Sept. 1, 2021

Ida also produced the seventh-highest hourly rainfall, dropping 1.82 inches between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Sept. 1, 2021

3.24 inches between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

July 21, 2006

2.35 inches between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Sept. 1, 2021

1.82 inches between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.


“There’s a lot of fluctuation year to year, but over a longer period of time, the trend is becoming increasingly evident,” said Aiguo Dai, a professor of atmospheric science at the University at Albany, SUNY. “This is exactly what both theory and climate models predicted.”

Other parts of the world are also struggling with increasingly vicious downpours. In July, unusually heavy rains in Germany and Belgium caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away buildings and killing more than 220 people. That same month, days of torrential rain in Zhengzhou, China, submerged the city’s subway system and caused at least 300 deaths in the region.

While scientists cannot always predict exactly when and where such rainstorms will occur, they understand how global warming is making them stronger. As temperatures rise, more water evaporates into the air from the oceans and land. And, for every 1 degree Celsius of global warming, the atmosphere can hold roughly 7 percent more water vapor.

That means when a rainstorm does eventually form, there is more water that can fall to the ground, sometimes within a very short period. Recent studies have detected an increase in hourly rainfall extremes in parts of the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia.

And if the planet keeps getting hotter, the threat of more intense rainfall will grow. Earth has already warmed roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Without swift action to reduce those emissions, a recent report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned, the planet could warm twice that amount or more.

Cities like New York are often more vulnerable to sudden downpours because so much of their land area is paved over with impervious surfaces like asphalt, which means that runoff is channeled into streets and sewers rather than being absorbed into the landscape.

An underpass along Queens Boulevard on Thursday.
Credit…Dakota Santiago for The New York Times

New York State officials, bracing for a rush of insurance claims after record-breaking rain submerged large parts of New York City, are urging insurance companies to expedite storm-related claims.

The message on Thursday from the New York State Department of Financial Services, which regulates insurance companies, came as the damage from flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida was still coming into focus.

“In this emergency situation, DFS expects all insurers to do their part,” the department said in a statement. It is “imperative” that insurance companies come to a “speedy resolution of claims.”

The Department of Financial Services also said it would increase the number of people who could process claims by accelerating its process of approving independent insurance adjusters from outside the state to work in New York.

When Hurricane Sandy pounded the New York area in October 2012, approximately 300 homes were destroyed, and more than 20,000 homes were damaged, according to city officials.

North of the city, in Westchester County, the Red Cross opened a shelter in Mamaroneck High School for people whose homes were destroyed or heavily damaged in the storm. It served 125 people on Thursday night and the shelter remains open, the organization said.

The damage from the storm underscored how vulnerable major parts of New York City’s infrastructure are to extreme weather.

For more information, New York City residents can type their address into this website and see whether their home is in an area at risk of flooding.

The site, FloodHelpNY.org, was created by the nonprofit Center for New York City Neighborhoods, which receives funding from the city and state of New York.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida pounded the region on Wednesday, dumping record rain and creating flooding in the five boroughs, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Credit…Johnny Miller

The image struck Johnny Miller right away: a hooded delivery man waded through waist-deep water, clutching someone’s takeout order in a white plastic bag and wheeling his electric bicycle, while all around him people in cars waited for firefighters to rescue them.

Mr. Miller, 40, a freelance photographer, captured the scene on video, as he stood at the intersection of North 11th and Roebling Streets in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at 10:02 p.m. on Wednesday getting soaked by the ferocious storm. It stood out to him as a vivid example of the city’s economic inequality.

“Seeing this guy push his bicycle past these people in Mercedes to deliver Chinese food just turned my stomach,” Mr. Miller said. “Some of us have the privilege to not work during a disaster and some of us don’t.”

He tweeted the clip from his account Unequal Scenes, which documents poverty and inequality around the globe: “And through it all! @Grubhub delivery still out there bringing your dinner,” he wrote, though he noted that he was unsure if the person worked for Grubhub or a different delivery service.

The clip immediately began to spread, and has since been viewed over six million times.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York shared the video, urging people not to order delivery during the storm: “If it’s too dangerous for you, it’s too dangerous for them,” she wrote. “Raid your cabinets or ask a neighbor for help.”

Others, including Eliza Orlins, a former candidate for Manhattan district attorney, and the sports journalist David Aldridge, echoed that plea. “You can’t have a bowl of cereal for dinner on a night like this??” Mr. Aldridge wrote.

Food delivery companies offer extra money to delivery drivers when demand is high, which can result in dangerous incentives as drivers weigh a particularly lucrative night against risks to their health and safety.

By midday Thursday, more than 10 news organizations had reached out to Mr. Miller offering money to license the clip, he said. He intends to contribute the funds, more than $1,700 so far, to the delivery man in the film — but first he has to determine his identity.

“I really hope I can find him,” Mr. Miller said.

Jonah E. Bromwich contributed reporting.





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