Death toll in Northeast climbing even as Ida's floodwaters recede
AccuWeather's Jillian Angeline was live in Wenonah, New Jersey, on Sept. 2, as residents sifted through the debris after a devastating EF3 tornado spawned by Tropical Rainstorm Ida.
The broader extent of Ida's Northeast rampage became clearer on Friday. With every update, the region's death toll climbs higher, cementing the devastating storm deeper into the history books as one of the worst flooding catastrophes much of the region has ever seen.
“This is the first time we’ve had a flash flood event of this proportion,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Thursday. “We haven’t experienced this before, but we should expect it the next time.”
President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit New York and New Jersey on Tuesday, Sept. 7, to survey the damage from Ida, according to CNN. Biden's stops will be in Queens, New York, and Manville, New Jersey.
As of Saturday, Ida's march through the Northeast as a tropical rainstorm claimed the lives of at least 51 people across five states – New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Connecticut. Including the fatalities from the southern U.S., where Ida made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, the storm is responsible for over 60 total deaths across the country.
In the Northeast, New Jersey was dealt the most fatal blow, with at least 27 fatalities, the majority of which were inflicted by floodwaters on victims in vehicles.
In New York, 11 deaths occurred in basements, as multiple families perished from inescapable rising floodwaters. One such family included a 50-year-old father, a 48-year-old mother and their 2-year-old young boy in Queens.
Along with multiple deaths in Pennsylvania and Maryland, the life of a Connecticut state trooper was also claimed by Ida, as confirmed by the Connecticut State Police. According to officials, state police sergeant Brian Mohl was swept away in his vehicle during an overnight shift near Woodbury.
A 26-year veteran trooper sent out a distress alert around 3:30 a.m., but it wasn't until 9 a.m. that morning that his body was found submerged in the Pomperaug River.
“A trooper of 26 years has given his life for our greater good," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said. "I was telling everybody, ‘Stay safe, stay home, let’s ride out this storm.’ But that’s not what you do as a trooper."
In the Big Apple, Hochul compared the intensity of the storm's rain to that of the Empire State's famous waterfall. While forecasters had been warning for days that the devastating Ida was going to make its way up north, Hochul said there was no way to prepare for the immensity of the storm.
“We did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night, that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level of water to the streets of New York," she said during a Thursday press conference.
She later added that she needs her state to put more attention on preparing the city to handle an increase in this type of flood event, saying that the changes caused by global warming need to be addressed.
“One thing I want to make clear: we’re not treating this as if it’s not going to happen again for 500 years,” she said, according to The Associated Press.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy told the TODAY show on Friday morning that his state is certainly not out of the woods yet. He added that along with the increased death toll, at least six people are still missing and that he sadly expects the state's death toll to continue climbing.
Satellite imagery captured over New Jersey shows the devastation caused by Tropical Rainstorm Ida on Sept. 2.
"While the weather may be good and while the floodwaters may have receded, we are still not out of the woods. We still have a lot of damage that we're dealing with; we still have floodwaters that are significantly higher than normal," Murphy said. "We're going to clean up and we're going to stay together, and we'll get back on our feet, but it may be a long road."
While the deep floodwaters have receded in many areas of the Northeast, some locations were still submerged on Friday morning.
Crews utilized seven large pumps to drain the heavily-trafficked Vine Street Expressway in Philadelphia through the night, but as photos posted to social media on Friday show, the lingering remnants of the historic flooding aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
The expressway was turned into a waterway after the Schuylkill River crested at major flood stage Thursday. The river just fell short of a record height of 17 feet that was set back on Oct. 4, 1869, when it reached an observed height of 16.35 feet around 11 a.m. Thursday. The river did set a new all-time record at a gauge located in Norristown, Pennsylvania, located in nearby Montgomery County.
At its peak on Thursday morning, the expressway was flooded so deeply that water was nearly touching the 22nd Street overpass. On one of the most popularly traveled roadways in the city, trucks, busses and cars were replaced by ducks and, in one particularly unsavory case, adventurous divers.
With the likelihood of there being more unaccounted casualties, police resorted to going door to door in search of victims, the AP reported.
“I don’t have an exact answer regarding how many people are actually missing, but we are going to continue to work hard throughout the day, throughout the evening to make sure we identify everyone’s location,” Rodney Harrison, New York City police chief of department, said Thursday.
At least one other resident in nearby Bucks County also died on Wednesday, when 65-year-old Donald Allen Bauer drove his car into floodwaters. NBC Philadelphia reported that Bauer's body was found on Thursday morning after the waters began to recede.
Some of the most notable tornado activity spawned by Ida occurred in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, about 23 miles south of Philadelphia. The tornado, which the NWS confirmed on Thursday night to be of EF-3 strength, tore through the area on Wednesday with max winds of 150 mph.
Local resident Ashley Thomas, whose home was destroyed by the twister, told Bloomberg that she and her husband retreated to the family's basement as soon as they got the alert. Less than 15 minutes later, the twister was overhead.
"We have a walk-up basement luckily, so we were able to get out through that, thank God," she said on Thursday. "If not, we would not have been able to get out."
Thomas said that they have lived there for eight years and have seen a number of other destructive storms ravage the area, including one that destroyed their gazebo. After that experience, she said they learned not to take storms lightly.
"We always joke that this is a wind tunnel. It is a wind tunnel, and it really proved itself to be that way last night," she said. "We were down there the second the phones went off and we got down in the basement."
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