- Travel bans and evacuations could be used ahead of future flooding events, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
- At least 49 people are dead after flooding in five Northeast states.
- Survivors recount tales of horror in basement apartments.
Evacuations could be ordered for basement apartments and travel bans put in place ahead of future extreme rainfall events, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday evening.
“We have historically thought of evacuation as something to do very, very rarely and only essentially in coastal areas,” de Blasio said in a video posted to social media. “Well, now we understand there has to be a different kind of evacuation for folks in basement apartments and some other areas of the city as well. It’s not just saying to people you have to get out of your apartment. It’s going to door-to-door with our first responders and other city agencies to get people out.”
The potential changes to emergency response come after at least 11 people in New York City died in basement apartments flooded by Wednesday night’s torrential rainfall. The flooding, brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, has put a new spotlight on climate change, lagging infrastructure, and the trend of more extreme weather now and in the future.
“We are now going to be speaking, going forward, to people who live in basement apartments, specific messages, specific cell phone alerts, telling people about the vulnerability they face in these kinds of rain events,” de Blasio said.
(MORE: The Most Shocking Things We’ve Seen in Ida’s Historic Northeast Rainfall)
At least two other people died in New York in the flooding, people got stranded on trains and hundreds of cars were left abandoned on city streets.
“What we learned Wednesday night is a travel ban is the kind of tool we may need to use much more frequently, which would mean for example that same morning or the day before telling people that there is a chance that a travel ban will be activated and, once it’s activated, people will have to leave the streets, get out of subways, et cetera, immediately,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said an extreme weather task force is being convened and will announce new climate-based emergency response plans later this month.
“And so we’re going to have an entirely different set of tools but also a profoundly different set of responses when we see these kinds of incidents coming.”
The overall death toll from Ida’s deadly streak across the northeastern U.S. rose to 49 on Friday, as homes were searched, survivors recounted the terror of flooding in basement apartments, cleanup began and another neighborhood in New Jersey was evacuated.
Between 6 and 11 inches of rain fell across the region as the remnants of what once was Hurricane Ida brought storms and tornadoes to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast Wednesday night.
(MORE: Investigation Launched Into Louisiana Nursing Home Deaths After Ida)
Survivors are still trying to absorb the horror of what happened.
“I almost died inside here, I almost died, man,” Oliver De La Cruz, 22, told the New York Times as he described escaping the rapidly rising water in his basement apartment in Brooklyn Wednesday night.
De La Cruz was awaked by a roommate, Ricardo Garcia, who said water burst through the apartment door and quickly rose to chest-high.
In New Jersey, most of the victims died in – or escaping from – flooded cars.
“Many motorists have been caught by surprise at the depth of the water on a road that they thought they knew,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a Friday morning news conference. “Not to mention the swiftness of the current. You could easily be swept away or trapped, and sadly we have many examples of just that.”
At least 25 are dead and six are missing in the state.
Other deaths occurred in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut.
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President Joe Biden approved emergency declarations for New York and New Jersey on Friday, paving the way for federal aid.
Meanwhile residents in parts of Fairfield, New Jersey, were being evacuated early Saturday morning, according to several local news reports. The evacuations started around 2 a.m. in one neighborhood near the Passaic River. Nineteen roads were closed in Fairfield and many others had water over them.
“The river is still rising at this time and roads are still subject to closure until it crests … Please stay safe,” police in the town about 12 miles northwest of Newark, said in a Facebook post.
Fairfield is in Essex County, where first responders carried out multiple water rescues at the height of the flooding Wednesday night.
Two of the Passaic River’s three gauges were in major flood stage as of about 11 a.m., and the third was just one step down in moderate flood stage.
“Most of the rivers are dropping, some rapidly, but the Passaic River is expected to climb slightly today then begin dropping tomorrow,” weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Belles said.
As for the rest of the forecast, the Northeast will see some rain but nothing like what came earlier this week.
“There will be a round of weak showers moving through the Northeast on Sunday into early Monday with otherwise generally pleasant conditions with highs around 80 into early next week along the eastern seaboard,” Belles said.
(MORE: Hurricane Ida Full Meteorological Recap)
Dozens of roads remained closed Friday in other impacted areas.
Floodwaters in Manville, New Jersey, about 28 miles southeast of Newark, blocked firefighters responding to at least three blazes. Two houses and a banquet hall were still smoldering Friday morning, NJ Advance Media reported.
“I don’t know what to do and how to deal with something like this,” Jayesh Mehta, owner of the Saffron banquet hall, said. “I haven’t had any such disasters like that in my life. Until when it was flooded and the water was inside, I was okay. I knew I had to repair it and fix it. Now, I don’t know. Something like this has never happened to me. I don’t know how to deal with it. I’ve had a sleepless night.”
In Philadelphia, part of the crosstown Vine Street Expressway remained under water. Commuter rail service was still down in parts of New York and New Jersey.
Officials in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, said 14 bridges or roads were closed there as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday night.
The county’s emergency communications center handled more than 6,500 calls for assistance between 11 a.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday, which equals about three times the normal call volume. The busiest hour was between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday.
(MORE: After a Flood: How to Clean Up and Stay Safe)
Many other cities, towns and counties also reported hundreds of rescues each.
About 40,000 homes and businesses remained with without power as of noon Saturday, according to poweroutage.us.
Nearly 500 cars ruined by flooding sat along New York City’s thoroughfares.
Scientists, politicians and experts all say the disastrous flooding is a sign that climate change is here now.
It’s already well documented that precipitation, including rainfall from storms, has risen in many areas as temperatures have gotten warmer over the past 120 years. That trend is expected to continue.
“As we continue to contend with the reality of climate change it is not surprising that these storms are happening with greater frequency and greater intensity,” Murphy said. “This conversation is one that we will continue having, probably for the rest of our lives.”
Ida roared ashore Sunday in southeast Louisiana, devastating communities there with flooding and causing the deaths of at least 14 people in three states, in addition to the fatalities in the Northeast. Searches are still ongoing in parts of Louisiana for victims and millions of people remain without electricity in sweltering heat.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.