Ida triggers massive flooding across Northeast

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Joshua Berlinger, Amy Woodyatt, Aditi Sangal, Adam Renton and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 12:01 AM ET, Fri September 3, 2021
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12:33 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Connecticut declares state of emergency after flood damage

From CNN's Kristina Sgueglia

Connecticut has declared a state of emergency in response to massive and widespread flood damage. 

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a declaration of civil preparedness emergency, his office said in a news release Thursday morning. 

“The filing of this declaration will help provide state and local emergency management officials with the necessary tools to aid the impacted areas in safely recovering from this record-breaking rainfall that we received overnight,” Lamont said in the release.
12:35 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Biden speaks with New York and New Jersey governors after severe flooding from Ida 

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

(Pool)
(Pool)

President Biden kicked off remarks on Hurricane Ida Thursday by addressing the storm’s impact in the Northeast after severe flooding and tornadoes overnight.

He said he has spoken with governors from two of the impacted states this morning.

“I spoke with Gov. [Kathy] Hochul of New York, Gov. [Phil] Murphy of New Jersey, and I plan to speak with Gov. [Tom] Wolf of Pennsylvania about last night’s devastating floods from Hurricane Ida, the fifth largest hurricane in our history,” Biden said. 

“Record rain fell in these states. New York recorded more rain yesterday, the first day of September, than it usually sees the entire month,” he added. 

Biden noted it was the first time that the National Weather Service has issued a flood emergency in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island, and praised first responders who helped people trapped in the Subway in New York. 

“We’re seeing the same story of devastation and heroism across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well,” he said. 

“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. 

Biden noted that FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell oversaw the federal response after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. 

“She knows what to do,” he said of Criswell. 

Additionally, Biden noted that he had approved an emergency declaration for California as the Caldor Fire burns in the Lake Tahoe area. 

“This disaster declaration will help with evacuation, including sheltering and feeding for those who have been displaced. I want you to know who these firefighters are up close. Their courage is astounding. And the some of the bravest people I've ever known, known a lot of them. My heart goes out to them – my thanks,” he said. 

12:23 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

NOW: Biden speaks on Ida response

(Pool)
(Pool)

President Biden thanked first responders who worked overnight to rescue people trapped in floodwaters in remarks today on his administration's response to Ida.

"We want to express my heartfelt thanks to all the first responders and everyone working through the night well into the morning to save lives and get power back," Biden said, speaking from the White House.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said, is ready to provide federal assistance.

The Category 4 hurricane made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, submerging some neighborhoods and causing widespread devastation. Some one million people are still without power in the Gulf coast and gas station outages are mounting in Louisiana’s two biggest cities.

Remnants of the storm unleashed dangerous flash floods and tornadoes across the Northeast Wednesday night, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

12:20 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Port of New Orleans continues to clear waterways following Ida, Coast Guard says 

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Some “key areas” along the Mississippi River and in the Port of New Orleans remain closed following Hurricane Ida, the US Coast Guard said Thursday. 

“We continue to work closely with the State of Louisiana and our maritime industry partners to reconstitute our ports,” Capt. Will Watson, Coast Guard captain-of-the-port for the Port of New Orleans, said in a statement, adding that there “is a massive recovery effort” going on.  

The Coast Guard is working to identify “grounded and submerged vessels along banks of the Lower Mississippi River,” the statement says. Mariners are requested to immediately report any hazards to navigation.

12:14 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

4 deaths reported in a flooded apartment complex in Elizabeth, New Jersey

From CNN’s Lauren del Valle

Four residents drowned in an apartment complex on the Elizabeth River in Elizabeth, New Jersey, overnight Wednesday, according to Mayor Chris Bollwage.

Authorities are not yet naming the deceased, but identified them as a male and female in their 70s and a male and female in their 30s.

CNN reported Wednesday night that one person was killed in Passaic, New Jersey, which brings the New Jersey death total to five.

In other parts of the East Coast, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed 9 deaths and an additional death in Maryland is being preliminary referenced as a storm related death, though the autopsy is pending. The death toll after the flooding now stands at at least 15.

The Elizabeth residents lived in garden level apartments at the rear of the building next to the river, which rose more than eight feet at its height late Wednesday, the mayor said.

The relationships of the deceased is unclear, the mayor said, but the deaths occurred in more than one apartment unit.

The entire complex has been deemed uninhabitable by authorities, displacing about 600 people from their homes, Bollwage said.

The apartment complex is directly across the street from a local fire department headquarters, but rescue efforts were not able to commence for some time due to the swells that also impacted the fire department facility with about four feet of water.

12:16 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

More than 100 people rescued in Philadelphia

From CNN's Laura Ly

A flooded street in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia on September 2.
A flooded street in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia on September 2. (Matt Rourke/AP)

At least 100 people have been rescued from floodwaters in Philadelphia so far as water rescues continue, Adam Thiel, Philadelphia Fire commissioner and director of the Office of Emergency Management, said Thursday.

Philadelphia experienced extreme flooding and damage due to the remnants of former Hurricane Ida, but there have not been any reported casualties due to the storm, Thiel said. However, he noted that first-responders and rescue teams are still working and that their storm response is still “very much an active incident.” 

Thiel added that the flooding that the city experienced Wednesday night into Thursday morning was “historic” and reached levels “not seen in more than 100 years.” The city has been conducting water rescues for the past 15 hours and is expected to continue for at least another 10 to 12 hours, he said. 

“This is going to be a long cleanup and recovery process,” Thiel said.

He also added that there were several minor building collapses throughout the city overnight, but said this is not uncommon for Philadelphia after a big rainstorm. 

All city offices are closed to the public Thursday due to the ongoing flood hazard, Mayor Jim Kenney said, noting that the city will only be providing “essential services” for the day.

“Extreme weather events like Ida are not isolated incidents,” Kenney said. The mayor added that city officials will continue to take steps to protect Philadelphia “for the climate of the future.”  

While two schools in Philadelphia experienced power outages and are closed Thursday, the majority of schools are open. Decisions on early dismissal for students are still being considered, Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite said, calling it “an evolving situation.” 

12:04 p.m. ET, September 2, 2021

We knew flooding was coming — but we didn't know it would be to this extent

From CNN meteorologist Judson Jones

Cars are abandoned on a flooded expressway in Brooklyn, New York, on September 2.
Cars are abandoned on a flooded expressway in Brooklyn, New York, on September 2. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Yes, we knew Ida was taking aim at the Northeast. Yes, we knew there would be deadly flash flooding in the Northeast. Yes, there was an outlook issued by the Weather Prediction Center that predicted this. Yes, there was a flash flood watch issued ahead of time. Yes, there were flash flood emergencies issued.

And yet, we all were a bit stunned.

"Did we know bad flooding was coming? Yes absolutely. Did we think NYC would literally be UNDERWATER? No, I don’t think so — at least not to THIS extent," said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller, who covered the storm all night long.

It wasn't all about the total amount of rain. It was the amount of rainfall within such a small time frame which made the situation that much worse. Ida unleashed a 1 in 500-year rainfall event in just a few hours.

In three hours, 5.2 inches fell from the skies. In one hour, Central Park recorded its wettest hour on record with 3.15 inches from 8:51 to 9:51 p.m. ET. These weather records have been kept in Central Park since 1889.

You may remember that this record was just set less than two weeks ago, the evening of the "We Love NYC" concert, when almost 2 inches fell in one hour.

When you have this much rainfall, places are going to flood in that short amount of time.

Stay updated on extreme weather: Sign up for email alerts from CNN meteorologists and reporters in the field.

11:52 a.m. ET, September 2, 2021

Mayor of New York town says "hundreds" of people had to be rescued from flooding

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

First responders pull residents in a boat as they rescue people trapped by floodwaters in Mamaroneck, New York, on September 2.
First responders pull residents in a boat as they rescue people trapped by floodwaters in Mamaroneck, New York, on September 2. (Frank Becerra Jr/The Journal News/USA Today Network)

The mayor of Mamaroneck, New York, said that "hundreds" of rescues have taken place in his community because of dangerous flooding.

Mayor Tom Murphy said search-and-rescue efforts are focused in one low-lying neighborhood at the confluence of two rivers. The Westchester County town, a suburb of New York City, has a population of about 30,000.

He said "scores" of people still need to be rescued, and advised residents to stay off the roads. He's "hopeful" that Gov. Kathy Hochul will send the National Guard to assist.

"Some areas we couldn't get the equipment in to get people out of the second floor of their homes, because the first floor was inundated," Murphy said.

"There are parts of the village that never ever saw flooding, people never got water in their basements before, but their basement filled up last night. It was a very precarious evening," he told CNN's Kate Bolduan.

Murphy said his town was supposed to get an Army Corps of Engineers plan "for at least 10 years now." 

"The plan was developed and it was going to be implemented, but it got killed in the last administration in Washington. So I'm hoping that we could revive that plan under the Biden administration and really get some relief for our residents. You know, many of our residents have suffered through this for years, and they have kind of a PTSD every time they get intense rain ... I don't blame them. A lot of people lost everything they have," Murphy said.  

11:33 a.m. ET, September 2, 2021

NJ and NY leaders express urgency to address infrastructure after historic, deadly flooding

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Commuters walk into a flooded subway station in New York on September 2.
Commuters walk into a flooded subway station in New York on September 2. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

The governors of New York and New Jersey said improvements in infrastructure are needed after areas of the states experienced widespread, deadly flooding that upended transit systems. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said officials need to look ahead to anticipate storms as the climate crisis produces stronger storms.

“As it relates to our infrastructure, our resiliency, our whole mindset, the playbook that we use, we’ve got to leap forward and get out of ahead of this. Any infrastructure money we get, I bet you a lot of it will be put into resilient infrastructure, because that is what you need when you're the most densely populated state in the nation … I think any amount of investment we could make in the years ahead in resilient infrastructure will be investment that will help us,” he said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said there need to be investments in infrastructure so the city and surrounding areas are better equipped to handle flooding. 

“This is the first time we've had a flash-flood event on this proportion in the city of New York and in the outlying areas. We haven’t experienced this before but we should expect it next time, and that means we have to continue investments in infrastructure, working in partnership with our federal government,” she said. 

“I don’t want this to happen again,” she added. 

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer also underscored the need for “resilient infrastructure.”

“Global warming is upon us, and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it,” the Senate majority leader said, calling for Congress to pass both the infrastructure and budget reconciliation bills.

“The second deals with climate change and will reduce the amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere by 50% by 2030. The first bill deals with infrastructure, and built into that infrastructure is something they have started fostering with [Superstorm] Sandy — that we don't just build infrastructure, but we built resilient infrastructure, so when these floods or fires or anything else occurs, they are much more resistant,” he said. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said more people will die if improvements in infrastructure are not addressed to combat climate change.

“Queens needs to see much more infrastructure investment. We cannot wait until tomorrow. We need it today. These lives could have been saved if we had investment that we sorely needed a long time ago,” he said.

“If we do not address climate change, we will continue to lose lives” across the borough and state, Richards added.

CNN's Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this post.