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New Yorkers pick up pieces following deluge; At least 17 dead

New Yorkers mopped up flooded homes and businesses and began removing fallen debris from crushed cars Thursday following record rainfall that caught much of the Big Apple by surprise.

Under piercing blue skies that belied the carnage of just a few hours earlier, shocked residents surveyed the damage of a chaotic night that left at least eight people dead.

“A ten-ton tree just feel on my car. My car’s crushed. It’s totaled,” Jonas Sigle told AFP as he eyed the wreckage outside his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“Wow, this was just unbelievable,” said his neighbor, Michael Price.

A short distance away, Metodija Mihajlov inspected the basement of his restaurant, which was flooded with three inches of water late Wednesday.

“When the rain started to get bad my guys called me and we decided to close the restaurant and turn off the electricity and everybody left,” he said.

“I’ve never seen that much rain ever,” added the 50-year-old. “It was like living in the jungle, like tropical rain.

“Luckily nothing was damaged. As soon as the rain stopped the water drained away,” Mihajlov told AFP.

In Brooklyn, Rebecca Stronger was mopping up water from the basement and first floors of her veterinary clinic.

“We all show up, we all clean and we all get our job done,” she told AFP.

– ‘Hearts ache’ –

Record rainfall of 3.15 inches (80 millimeters) of rain in Central Park in just an hour broke a record set last month during Tropical Storm Henri.

Stronger said she expects more storms in the future as the surface layer of oceans warms due to climate change.

“Of course. Everybody knows (about) climate change. The world is exploding on so many different levels. I expect it to happen a lot,” she added.

The flooding reignited memories of Hurricane Sandy, a more powerful storm that knocked out power for much of Manhattan and flooded subways in 2012.

Subway services were halted late Wednesday but slowly began running again early Thursday.

Many residents posted videos on social media that showed water cascading down stairs and into apartments.

The New York Police Department said that eight people had died. They were aged between two and 86 and were founded in flooded locations in Queens and The Bronx.

“Our hearts ache for the lives lost in last night’s storm,” tweeted Mayor de Blasio, who declared a state of emergency, late Wednesday.

“Please keep them and their loved ones in your thoughts today. They were our fellow New Yorkers and to their families, your city will be there for you in the days ahead,” he added.

At least 17 dead as flash floods slam New York area
New York (AFP) Sept 2, 2021 – Flash flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least 17 people in the New York area overnight into Thursday, including several who perished in their basements during the “historic” weather event.

Record rainfall, which prompted an unprecedented flash flood emergency warning for New York City, turned streets into rivers and shut down subway services as water cascaded down platforms onto tracks.

“I’m 50 years old and I’ve never seen that much rain ever,” said Metodija Mihajlov whose basement of his Manhattan restaurant was flooded with three inches of water.

“It was like living in the jungle, like tropical rain. Unbelievable. Everything is so strange this year,” he told AFP.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at LaGuardia and JFK airports, as well as at Newark, where video showed a terminal inundated by rainwater.

“We’re all in this together. The nation is ready to help,” President Joe Biden said ahead of a trip Friday to the southern state of Louisiana, where Ida earlier destroyed buildings and left more than a million homes without power.

Flooding closed major roads across multiple New York boroughs including Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens, submerging cars and forcing the fire department to rescue hundreds of people.

Nine died in New York City, including eight who could not escape their basements, police said. The victims ranged from the ages of 2 to 86.

“Among the people MOST at risk during flash floods here are those living in off-the-books basement dwellings that don’t meet the safety codes necessary to save lives,” lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

“These are working class, immigrant, and low-income people & families,” she added.

Another four people lost their lives in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a spokesperson for the mayor there told AFP, while another death was confirmed in Passaic.

Three died in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, a local official confirmed.

Ida blazed a trail of destruction north after slamming into Louisiana over the weekend, bringing severe flooding and tornadoes.

“We’re enduring an historic weather event tonight with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Wednesday.

State emergencies were declared in New York and New Jersey while the National Weather Service issued its first-ever emergency flash flood warning for New York City, urging residents to move to higher ground.

“You do not know how deep the water is and it is too dangerous,” the New York branch of the National Weather Service (NWS) said in a tweet.

The NWS recorded 3.15 inches (80 millimeters) of rain in Central Park in just an hour — beating a record set just last month during Storm Henri.

The US Open was also halted as howling wind and rain blew under the corners of the Louis Armstrong Stadium roof.

– Lingering tornado threat –

New Yorkers woke to clear blue skies Thursday as the city edged back to life but signs of the previous night’s carnage weren’t far away: residents moved fallen tree branches from roads as subway services slowly resumed.

Around 98,000 homes in Pennsylvania, 60,000 in New Jersey and 40,000 in New York were without power, according to the website poweroutage.us.

It is rare for such storms to strike America’s northeastern seaboard and comes as the surface layer of oceans warms due to climate change.

The warming is causing cyclones to become more powerful and carry more water, posing an increasing threat to the world’s coastal communities, scientists say.

“Global warming is upon us and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse unless we do something about it,” said Democratic senator Chuck Schumer.

In Annapolis, 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Washington, a tornado ripped up trees and toppled electricity poles.

The NWS warned the threat of tornadoes would linger, with tornado watches in effect for parts of southern Connecticut, northern New Jersey, and southern New York as Ida tracked north through New England Thursday.

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