“Climate change is happening right now,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said via Twitter. “It is not a future threat. It is a current threat.” She formally requested a federal emergency management declaration for 14 counties to help them recover.
The summer has already brought deadly flooding in Tennessee and Germany, heat waves shattering all-time temperature records in western Canada, and wildfires raging in California and Greece.
Ida’s parting hit on New York and the Northeast likely pushed the storm’s overall economic losses and damages into the $50 billion to $60 billion range, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. This would place it fifth on the list of the most costly hurricanes to hit the U.S., behind Katrina, Harvey, Maria, and Sandy.
Its path through the Northeast had been predicted for days, but its strength was a surprise. The storm collided with the jet stream at the hottest time of the day, when the air was already unstable, said Zack Taylor, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.
An area from eastern Pennsylvania to southern New England, including New York, got as much as 8 inches of rain in a few hours. In Central Park, 3.15 inches fell in one hour, setting a record, Taylor said.
“It was the perfect set-up for extreme rainfall, and unfortunately, it happened over one of the most populous corridors of the United States,” Taylor said.
Most residents didn’t see it coming, sometimes with fatal consequences. On the Gulf Coast, Ida killed at least five people. In the Northeast, a weakened storm killed at least eight times that many.
By Thursday evening, officials said New York City’s death toll had reached 13, while noting that the numbers were preliminary. Eleven fatalities were in Queens and two were in Brooklyn, NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said at a briefing.
The department’s Emergency Service Unit, which evacuated more than 800 people from the subway, also made 166 rescues in response to distress calls, Harrison said.
In Hillsborough Township, New Jersey, where many roads had been submerged, Governor Phil Murphy said the storm claimed at least 23 lives across his state. Most died in vehicles, he said. Four people were found dead in an Elizabeth apartment complex. Residents said Thursday that the water rose rapidly.
“It was terrible,” said Yvette Baker, 34. “The water was so high. They had one rowboat trying to save all these people. People were screaming for help.”
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, officials reported three deaths. In Connecticut, a state police sergeant was swept away by flood waters.
Thirteen miles outside Manhattan in Nutley, New Jersey, a town of about 28,000, a stretch of the business district became inundated as a tributary to the Passaic River overflowed its banks.
Mark Vitiello, 51, showed up at his bakery at 3 a.m. to find an abandoned car in his entrance and about a foot of water in his kitchen. “I’ve been here my whole life and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Vitiello, the third generation of his family to own the local landmark.
The storm flooded the basements of many businesses and homes in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, said Chi Ossé, a Democratic candidate for City Council. “It is mostly black and brown folks or working-class folks who are dealing with the flooding right now,” he said.
Across the region, the storm’s battering created doubt and wonder about what would come next. Rachael Francique from East Flatbush in Brooklyn stopped at the edge of Prospect Park’s Playground Three on Thursday to see it lying under three feet of water.