At Least 25 Dead in Northeast as Ida Remnants Batter Major Cities and Prompt Emergency Declarations

Brooklyn expressway.
Floodwaters eclipsed a Brooklyn expressway.Getty

The entire subway system of New York City was shut down and an emergency flood disaster declared for the first time in history.

The deadly remnants of Hurricane Ida battered the Northeast, killing at least 25 people, wiping out public transportation service and stranding thousands with no power or roadways.

For the first time in history, a flash flood emergency was issued in New York City, where subways became raging waterfalls and Manhattan streets became rivers. Subway service was suspended, as was air transportation at the region's three major airports. 

Nine people died in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday. "We saw a horrifying storm last night. Unlike anything we’ve seen before,” De Blasio said. ”Unfortunately the price paid by some New Yorkers, was horrible and tragic," the outgoing mayor said.

New York Gov.  Kathy Hochul said the state was focused on unclogging sewer systems that were not built to handle roaring floodwaters brought on by climate chage.

“Before we worried about coastal areas, now it’s about what’s happening in the streets, the drainage systems that need to be enhanced,” Hochul said. “Because of climate change, unfortunately, this is something we’re going to have to deal with with great regularity.”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy joined de Blasio and Hochul in declaring a state of emergency as cities including Newark and Passaic were buried by torrential rains and divers searched floodwaters for the dead and missing. A 70-year-old man died after he was swept away in Passaic. Later Thursday, Connecticut also declared a state of emergency.

Tornadoes were spotted in Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland and New Jersey. 

New York's Central Park got 3.15 inches of rain between 8:51 p.m. and 9:51 p.m., breaking an hourly record set in the 1900s.

In Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River overflowed its banks, flooding city streets and halting local subway service. 

President Joe Biden addressed the damage Thursday, saying New York recorded more rain Wednesday "than it usually sees the entire month of September."

He noted, "People were trapped in the subways. But the heroic men and women of the New York Fire Department rescued all of them. They were trapped," Biden said. The president said he has assured East Coast governors that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is "on the ground" and ready to help.

“There’s a lot of damage. I made clear to the governors: My team at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, is on the ground ready to provide all the assistance that’s needed,” he said. 

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