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Emergencies declared in New York, New Jersey as Ida batters, floods region


People out in the street during heavy rain and storm at Times Square in New York City, United States on September 1, 2021. Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday as a devastating Category 4 hurricane, bringing with it mass flooding and damage.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A “flash flood emergency” was issued for the first time in New York City as heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida lashed the region late Wednesday, spawning at least one tornado and causing flooding, officials said. Two deaths have been reported.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency, and a “travel ban” barring non-emergency vehicles from streets and highways was in place until 5 a.m., officials said.

“We’re enduring an historic weather event tonight with record breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads,” de Blasio tweeted.

Central Park saw more than 3 inches of rain in one hour, the National Weather Service said. Between 6 and 10 inches of rain fell over several hours, it said, and city streets were inundated with water.

At least one person in New York City died. The New York City Fire Department said it responded to a report of flooding in Queens shortly after 11 p.m. and one person taken from the building was pronounced deceased. A second patient was taken to a hospital.

The mayor of Passaic, New Jersey, said that at least one person was killed in the city during Wednesday’s storm. Firefighters recovered a body from a vehicle that went underwater when it was caught in floodwaters near the Passaic River, he said.

The FDNY was responding to rescue calls in all five boroughs, a department spokesperson said. The effort including using high-axle vehicles bought after Superstorm Sandy.

New York City’s subway system was severely limited or suspended because of the weather and flooding, the transit agency said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared of state of emergency, which allows for state aid.

New York City airports LaGuardia and JFK reported flight disruptions, and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport suspended all flight activity but limited operations later returned.

Video showed flooded streets and some disabled vehicles in Elmhurst, Queens.

The weather service retweeted video of Brooklyn that showed cars driving through water that resembled a river with an urgent warning: “This water is too deep to drive through. Turn Around Don’t Drown!!”

The National Weather Service for New York City said Wednesday was the first time it had issued a “flash flood emergency” for the city. That term, different from a flood warning, is for an exceedingly rare situation with a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage, it said.

New Jersey’s governor declared a state of emergency due to the severe weather. “Stay off the roads, stay home, and stay safe,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Passaic Mayor Hector C. Lora declared a state of emergency, one of several area cities to do so. He livestreamed the scene as cars were submerged up to their headlights in a flooded section of the city of around 70,000. Some cars were struck in the middle of the street.

Passaic’s Deputy Chief of Police Louis Gentile said that all kinds of vehicles have gotten stuck, and warned residents not to be fooled by thinking they have a powerful car.

“We have fire trucks stuck, we have ambulances stuck, we have people that are still stuck and not getting out of the water,” he said. “It’s very serious.”

At least one tornado struck Mullica Hill, New Jersey, forecasters said. At least nine homes were destroyed, NBC Philadelphia reported. There were reports of damage across southeast Pennsylvania Pennsylvania and in New Jersey, National Weather Service Meteorologist Sarah Johnson said, but survey teams will have to confirm if they were more tornadoes.

New Jersey Transit said rail service was suspended.

Soaking rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida prompted the evacuations of thousands of people Wednesday after water reached dangerous levels at a dam near Johnstown, a Pennsylvania town nicknamed Flood City.

Some areas near Johnstown, whose history includes several deadly floods, saw 5 inches or more of rain by mid-afternoon, an inundation that triggered an evacuation order for those downstream from the Wilmore dam.

Cambria County emergency management director and 911 center head Art Martynuska said the water level at the Wilmore dam reached a height that required evacuation.

Nearby Hinckston Run Dam was also being monitored but appeared stable by late afternoon, he said, by which time water levels at Wilmore dam were receding.

Gov. Tom Wolf said he was sending emergency responders to Bucks County, including National Guard high-water vehicles and an urban search-and-rescue team, in southeastern Pennsylvania following tornadoes and flooding.

Johnson, of the weather service office in Mount Holly, New Jersey, which also covers Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania, said there were reports of as much as 7 inches of rain Wednesday.

In Maryland, a 19-year-old man died after flooding that displaced 150 people from an apartment building Wednesday morning, police said. There was also a suspected tornado that caused damage in Annapolis.

The severe weather occurred as Post-Tropical Cyclone Ida, which hit Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, was causing heavy rainfall in the region.

The hurricane and its remnants knocked out power to hundreds of thousands in Louisiana and beyond and the storm is considered a factor in at least 10 deaths, including those killed Wednesday.

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