In a region that had been warned about potentially deadly flash flooding but hadn’t braced for such a blow from the no-longer-hurricane, the storm killed at least 45 people from Maryland to Connecticut on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
At least 23 people died in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said. At least 12 people in New York City, police said, one of them in a car and 11 in flooded basement apartments that often serve as relatively affordable homes in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. Suburban Westchester County reported three deaths.
Wednesday’s storm ultimately dumped over 9 inches of rain in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and nearly as much on New York City’s Staten Island.
In Elizabeth, New Jersey, near Newark Airport, four people died and 600 were left homeless from rain and river flooding in an apartment complex, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage said.
Neighbors described hearing screaming from the complex at about 11 p.m. as water flowed down the street, pushing dumpsters and cars around.
“Sandy had nothing on this,” resident Jennifer Vilchez said, referring to 2012′s Superstorm Sandy.
Greg Turner, who lives in another part of the city, said his 87-year-old mother started calling 911 from the complex at 8 p.m. when the water started rising in her apartment. High water kept him and his brother from getting to her.
As midnight approached, the water reached her neck, he said. Rescuers finally cut through the floor of the apartment above and pulled her to safety.
“She lost everything,” Turner said as he headed to a bank for money to buy his mother clothes and shoes.
In New Jersey’s Milford Borough, authorities said they found a man’s body in a car buried up to its hood in dirt and rocks.
The ferocious storm also spawned tornadoes — at least seven, according to the National Weather Service. One split trees on Cape Cod, another tore off part of a high school roof in suburban Philadelphia and yet another ripped apart homes and toppled silos in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, south of Philadelphia.
“It just came through and ripped,” said resident Jeanine Zubrzycki, 33, who hid in her basement with her three children as the house shook and lights flickered. When the danger passed, they went upstairs and saw a neighbor’s house had been destroyed.
“And then you could just hear people crying,” said Zubrzycki, whose own home was damaged but livable.