The National Weather Service (NWS) issued its first ever flash flood emergency warning for New York City, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought heavy rain that flooded subway lines and streets in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. At least 14 people have been killed in the flooding in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania as basement apartments suddenly filled with water. The catastrophic weather came to the largest city in the US after a grim two weeks across the nation that has seen 20 dead in flooding in a small Tennessee town, wildfires threatening Lake Tahoe, Tropical Storm Henri in the north-east and Ida’s landfall in Louisiana, which left 1 million people without power, maybe for weeks.
A New York City police spokesperson said a total of eight people died when they became trapped in flooded basements. Five people were found dead in an apartment complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Another death was reported in Passaic, New Jersey. The city’s mayor, Hector Lora, said a 70-year-old man was swept away. “His family was rescued, they were all in the same car. Unfortunately, the car was overtaken by the waters, and the firefighters who were being dragged down under the vehicle were unable to get him out,” Lora told New York station WCBS-TV. Officials outside of Philadelphia reported “multiple fatalities”, saying no additional details were immediately available.
The deaths in New York included a 50-year-old man, a 48-year-old woman and a two-year-old boy who were found unconscious and unresponsive late Wednesday inside a home. They were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
28th St & 7 Ave subway station (Chelsea, Manhattan) pic.twitter.com/2q4UQRIhm0
— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) September 2, 2021
New York’s FDR Drive, a major artery on the east side of Manhattan, and the Bronx River Parkway were underwater by late Wednesday evening. Subway stations and tracks became so flooded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended all service, but some trains were running with limited service Thursday morning. Videos posted online showed subway riders standing on seats in cars filled with water.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 2, 2021
The NWS office in New York declared its first set of flash flood emergencies in the region Wednesday night, an alert level that is reserved for “exceedingly rare situations when a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is happening or will happen soon”. The NWS recorded 3.15in of rain in Central Park in one hour, far surpassing the 1.94in that fell in one hour during Tropical Storm Henri on the night of August 22nd, which was believed at the time to be the most ever recorded in the park.
This is the first time we've ever had to issue one.
— NWS New York NY (@NWSNewYorkNY) September 2, 2021
Heavy winds, drenching rains, and at least one tornado also battered Pennsylvania and New Jersey, collapsing the roof of a US Postal Service building and threatening to overrun a dam on the way. The NWS confirmed at least one tornado and social media posts showed homes reduced to rubble in Mullica Hill, a southern New Jersey county just outside Philadelphia.
Our infrastructure is not ready for climate change, a thread from tonight. 28th St. subway station pic.twitter.com/uYemJKB8yg
— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) September 2, 2021
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency shortly before midnight on Wednesday, saying: “We’re enduring an historic weather event tonight with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding, and dangerous conditions on our roads.” He also said thousands of New Yorkers had lost power. Governor Kathy Hochul also declared a state of emergency for New York State.
The Brooklyn Queens Expressway totally submerged underwater tonight pic.twitter.com/iy7CIA0plw
— NYC Scanner (@NYScanner) September 2, 2021
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Newark Liberty international airport, tweeted at 10.30pm that all flights were suspended and all parking lots were closed due to severe flooding. All train service to the airport was also suspended. Amateur videos that circulated on social media showed parts of the airport flooded with water.
Terminal B of Newark, one of the major airports serving NYC/NJ, looks like a giant swimming pool 😳pic.twitter.com/XHTzC36Vtm
— Dr. Lucky Tran (@luckytran) September 2, 2021
New York City put in place a travel ban until 5 am ET Thursday for all non-emergency vehicles, and a travel advisory was in effect after it expired. All non-emergency vehicles were advised to stay off streets and highways.