The remnants of Ida slammed the tri-state Wednesday night with fatal results, producing historic rainfall amounts never seen before in the region, while leaving millions under a flash flooding emergency and triggering multiple tornado warnings throughout the night — including for New York City.
Most of New York City and the surrounding area was under a Flash Flood Emergency until 3 a.m. Thursday. It was the first time that the National Weather Service had ever issued such an alert for NYC and the area, as it urged the 9.1 million at-risk people to seek higher ground.
The National Weather Service reported rainfall rates of at least 3 to 5 inches an hour in northeastern New Jersey and parts of New York City.
Kathy Hochul and Phil Murphy declared states of emergency for New York and New Jersey, as did Bill de Blasio for NYC and a handful of other mayors for nearby cities.
“We’ve got a serious situation for the coming hours. It is absolutely crucial for people to get off the road,” de Blasio said. “People should get to safety. It’ll be bad for another few hours.”
In Passaic, New Jersey, the mayor reported up to five feet of water on the ground, and told NBC New York there was already at least one confirmed drowning in the city, with a body recovered from a vehicle that went underwater near the overflowing Passaic River. Mayor Hector Lora, who declared a state of emergency for the city, also said emergency services confirmed two others were swept away in floodwaters. Their bodies have not been found, he said, but crews were searching.
The FDNY said that it was responding to calls of people in need of rescue from the intense flooding in all five boroughs, and had deployed five “high-axle” vehicles — purchased after Superstorm Sandy — to perform water rescues on flooded streets and highways. According to the department, one person died and another was hospitalized after a a side wall partially collapsed following reports of a water leak and flooding in Queens.
The FDNY also said it was assisting with flooding in the subway system, which grinded to a halt as the storm hit. Given the flooding conditions, an MTA official said that train service was very limited, and warned people in NYC “do not travel on the subways.” Nearly every single line suspended service by late Wednesday night, and Gov. Hochul said that she “can’t guarantee” the NYC subway system will be fully functioning by the morning, potentially derailing commutes.
Janno Lieber, the acting Chair and CEO of the MTA, issued a statement after midnight saying that the weather had created “severe” service disruptions, and that some riders were stuck on trains, having to be rescued by first responders. At least six subway trains got stuck between stations and required evacuations.
Lieber reiterated that New Yorkers do not travel until further notice, adding that the agency will be “deploying maximum pump capacity and surging workers into the system when it’s safe.”
Metro-North suspended all service out of Grand Central on all lines, while NJ Transit suspended all rail service except for Atlantic City line trains. Long Island Rail Road also said that train service was suspended systemwide.
The cancellations for mass transit paired with flooded streets throughout the region made for commuting anywhere Wednesday night a nightmare. With the FDNY conducting so many rescues and many streets still flooded, the city instituted a travel ban until 5 a.m. Thursday, which prohibits all non-emergency vehicles from driving on city streets.
Roads throughout New Jersey and NYC turned into raging rivers, with scores of cars left stuck in the floodwaters — which in some cases may continue to rise well into Thursday, even if the rain stops, due to the nearby rivers. Several major highways, including FDR Drive in the city, were blocked off in parts due to extensive flooding. Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike was at a standstill for hours, with cars and trucks barely moving.
By the end of Wednesday night, there were too many roads to count throughout the tri-state that had been closed or were impassable due to flooding, as officials urged any drivers who had to be on the roads to not driver into water.
Track live radar and see the latest timing and potential impacts from Ida here.
There were more than just roads or cars that damaged due to the storms. The mayor of Kearny, New Jersey, said that four postal workers had minor injuries after a roof collapsed at a warehouse in the town. Not-so-coincidentally, it was the same mail warehouse where was postal worker was killed during Superstorm Sandy, after a creek next to the building flooded.
Newark Airport reported more than three inches of rain between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., and later suspended all flight activity, with travelers advised to contact their airline for information. The air traffic control was evacuated at the airport due to the tornado threat, Port Authority said, but neither the airport nor terminals were evacuated. Air traffic control staff returned by the end of the night.
Port Authority said that there was some flooding in the lower level of Terminal B, with passengers directed to the upper levels. By 2 a.m., limited operations resumed at Newark Airport, but nearly a third of scheduled flights had been canceled; there were also cancellations at JFK Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Find the latest information regarding NYC-area airport and flight delays here.
As of 3 a.m., there were nearly 152,000 tri-state customers without power, most of which (74,000) were in New Jersey. First Energy and Jersey Central Power & Light reported 32,000 outages, while PSEG was reporting just under 35,000.
In NYC, outages were not as bad, but there were still more than 5,000 customers in the dark. Con Edison said that the hardest hit areas in the city for outages were Morris Park and Throggs Neck sections of the Bronx, as well as Castleton Corners and Port Richmond on Staten Island.
Over in New Jersey, the city of Paterson closed schools for Thursday due to the flooding going on.
Tornado warnings were issued throughout the night for part of the Bronx, Manhattan and Westchester County, as well as Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris and Somerset counties in New Jersey.
A confirmed tornado touched down in southern New Jersey before then, tearing through a neighborhood in the southern NJ town of Mullica Hill, ripping homes to shreds. As the storm moved north, video showed dark swirling clouds over a road in Mount Holly.
Flash flood watches are in effect for virtually the entire tri-state area, including all five boroughs of New York City, through much of Thursday. Flash flood warnings were issued for nearly every county in the area throughout Wednesday night, with warnings still in place for Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties until 6:30 a.m.
Multiple counties were under areal flood warnings (floods that develop more gradually) lasting into Thursday morning:
- NYC, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, as well as Long Island, until at least 6:30 a.m.
- Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties in NJ until 5:45 a.m.
- Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Union counties in NJ until 6:45 a.m.
- Hunterdon, Sussex and Warren counties in NJ until 11 a.m.
- Morris and Somerset counties in NJ until 12 p.m.
New York’s Dutchess, Rockland, Orange and Ulster counties are under a flood warning, as is Passaic County in NJ.
The catastrophic flooding — getting a month’s worth of rain coming in one day — along with tornadoes and raging winds will continue to grip the tri-state area into Thursday morning.
The rain will move out quickly, with many in NYC and westward waking up to clear skies, though wind gusts topping 35 mph are expected to linger even after the precipitation moves out.
Temperatures stay cool, in the mid-70s Wednesday through Thursday. Skies clear Friday just in time for a nice and sunny Labor Day weekend, which should feature more comfortable temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. That trend looks to continue through the rest of the next workweek.
This summer has been Central Park’s second wettest on record already, and many spots throughout the tri-state are still saturated from the relentless storms.
Central Park typically gets 4.31 inches of rain during the month of September – and could see more than that fall before the system moves out. If the park tops 3.8 inches of daily rain on either Wednesday or Thursday, it would break daily records that have stood since 1927.
The greatest single-day September rainfall total in New York City was 8.28 inches in 1882, records show. Parts of Brooklyn saw more than that over Henri’s 36-hour siege last month, while Central Park recorded its rainiest single hour in history.
Ida made landfall in southern Louisiana as a monster Category 4 hurricane Sunday, 16 years to the day Katrina hit. It rapidly weakened and became a tropical storm as it tore a path of wreckage from Louisiana to Mississippi and left millions in the dark. The storm is no longer a tropical depression, but obviously still packed a powerful punch in the form of precipitation.
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