By Maria Caspani and Kanishka Singh
Flooding killed at least nine people, swept away cars, submerged subway lines and grounded flights in New York and New Jersey as the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought torrential rains to the area.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described the flooding and weather on Wednesday night as a “historic weather event,” and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency in New York City for the first time.
Recovery efforts were underway early on Thursday to bring back transportation systems serving millions of residents in the densely populated metropolitan area.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul urged commuters to stay home from work and pleaded for patience to “give us some time to have complete restoration of the trains” after service was knocked out in much of the area, leaving many riders stranded overnight.
“This is one for the record books,” Hochul told CNN.
The storm dumped “extreme rain rates” of 2 to 3 inches per hour along the Philadelphia to New York City corridor, the National Weather Service said.
Subway service in New York City remained “extremely limited” on Thursday morning, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) said. Janno Lieber, the MTA’s acting chair and CEO told local media it was going to take until later in the day to restore full service.
The Long Island Railroad, which is also run by the MTA, said early on Thursday that services on most of its branches has been restored, but commuters should expect systemwide delays of up to 30 minutes.
Images posted on social media overnight showed water gushing over subway platforms and trains. First responders evacuated people from the subway system, Lieber said in an earlier statement.
At least one person was killed as the flooding inundated the New Jersey city of Passaic, Mayor Hector Lora told CNN.
NBC New York reported that one more person had died in New Jersey and seven had died in New York City, including a 2-year-old boy. Local media reported that people had been trapped in their basements as the storm sent water surging through the city.
Lora said the body of a man in his seventies was retrieved from floodwaters. The vehicle the man was riding in was swept away by the water and firefighters were swept under the vehicle, preventing them reaching him, CNN reported.
The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency late on Wednesday.
All non-emergency vehicles were banned from New York City’s streets until 5 a.m. on Thursday due to the weather, city authorities said on Twitter.
At least five flash flood emergencies were issued on Wednesday evening by the National Weather Service, stretching from west of Philadelphia through northern New Jersey.
All New Jersey Transit rail services apart from the Atlantic City Rail Line were suspended, the service said on its website.
Tornadoes spawned by the storm ripped through parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, images on social media showed.
New Jersey’s Newark Liberty Airport said on Twitter it was experiencing “severe flooding”. It said it resumed “limited flight operations” close to midnight after all flight activity was suspended late on Wednesday.
More than 200,000 electricity customers were without power early on Thursday in five northeastern states that got most of the rains overnight, mostly in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to PowerOutage.US, which gathers data from utility companies. There were also outages in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, it said.
The hit to the region came three days after Ida pounded southern Louisiana as a very powerful hurricane. Reconnaissance flights revealed entire communities devastated by wind and floods.