Ida recovery: Biden issues emergency declaration for NY, NJ

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Tropical Weather New York

Cars and trucks are stranded by high water Thursday, Sept 2, 2021, on the Major Deegan Expressway in Bronx borough of New York as high water left behind by Hurricane Ida still stands on the highway hours later. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

NEW YORK — President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration for New York and New Jersey after remnants of Ida hammered the tri-state area, causing significant disruption to major population centers.

The president approved the declaration late Thursday, which would provide states equipment, reimbursement for emergency expenditures and immediately make assessments about how much more aid they’re eligible for, according to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

Gov. Murphy also announced $10 million in relief would be provided for small businesses in the state impacted by the storm.

The storm’s rainy remains hit the Northeast with surprising fury on Wednesday and Thursday, submerging cars, swamping subway stations and basement apartments and drowning scores of people in five states.

Intense rain overwhelmed urban drainage systems never meant to handle so much water in such a short time — a record 3 inches in just an hour in New York.

New York’s subways were running with delays or not at all. North of the city, commuter train service remained suspended or severely curtailed. In the Hudson Valley, train tracks were covered in several feet of mud.

Even after clouds gave way to blue skies, some rivers and streams were still rising. Part of the swollen Passaic River in New Jersey wasn’t expected to crest until Friday night.

Ida stands as the deadliest hurricane in the U.S. in four years.

At least 40 people died, including a 2-year-old boy, across New York City and New Jersey when Ida brought the region record-breaking rainfall and historic flooding 

In New York City, teams of police officers knocked on doors to check for anyone left behind. Police reviewed emergency calls from when the storm hit to pinpoint where people may have been in harm’s way. Calls to the city’s 911 system peaked at 12 times above normal Wednesday night.

“I don’t have an exact answer regarding how many people are actually missing,” Rodney Harrison, chief of department for the New York City police, said Thursday night, “but we are going to continue to work hard throughout the day, throughout the evening to make sure we identify everyone’s location.”

Biden said Thursday said he will further press Congress to pass his nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill to improve roads, bridges, the electric grid and sewer systems. The proposal intends to ensure that the vital networks connecting cities and states and the country as a whole can withstand the flooding, whirlwinds and damage caused by increasingly dangerous weather. Biden stressed that the challenge transcends the politics of a deeply divided nation because of the threats posed by the storms and fires.

Scientists say climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather events — such as large tropical storms, and the droughts and heatwaves that create conditions for vast wildfires. U.S. weather officials recently reported that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded in 142 years of record-keeping.

Ida was the fifth-most powerful storm to strike the U.S. when it hit Louisiana on Sunday with maximum winds of 150 mph, likely causing tens of billions of dollars in flood, wind and other damage, including to the electrical grid.

FEMA had sent tons of supplies, including generators, tarps and other materials to the region before the storm, and federal response teams are working on search and rescue.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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