Storm Ida: Flash flooding in New York and New Jersey kills six

At least six people have died after flash flooding and tornadoes hit the north-east US, local media report.

Some people were trapped in the flooded basements of their homes, while one body was retrieved from a vehicle that was swept away.

The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a “historic weather event”.

At least 8cm of rain fell in just one hour in New York’s Central Park.

The mayor of New Jersey city Passaic, Hector Lora, told US broadcaster CNN that the body of a man in his 70s had been recovered from a vehicle that had been swept away in the floods.

NBC New York later reported that one more person had died in New Jersey, and four others had died in New York City after becoming trapped in their basements.

Footage on social media showed water pouring into subway stations and people’s homes, and flooded roads.

New York resident George Bailey told the BBC that he hadn’t expected such severe flooding.

“Right in the middle of dinner I hear gurgling, and the water’s coming up out of the shower drain in our bathroom,” he said. “I went to check the main water line in the utility room, and by the time I walked back into the living room there was nearly a foot of water in the room already. It was incredible how fast it came through.”

Almost all New York City subway lines have been closed, and non-emergency vehicles were banned from the city’s roads. Many flights and trains out of New York and New Jersey have been suspended.

People navigate heavy rains and flooded walkways at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the area in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 01 September 2021.
More than three inches (8cm) of rain has fallen in parts of New York

The US National Weather Service declared a flood emergency in New York City, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Long Island, and issued tornado warnings for parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

A flood emergency, as opposed to a warning, is issued in “exceedingly rare situations when a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is happening or will happen soon”, the NWS said.

The extreme weather has been caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida, which caused widespread devastation in southern Louisiana earlier this week.

Many factors contribute to flooding, but a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.

The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

Flooding in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York on 1 September 2021 Credit: Jaymee Sire via Reuters
Social media footage shows flooding in Williamsburg area of Brooklyn (Photo credit: Jaymee Sire)

The remnants of Hurricane Ida have been pushing north across the east of the country, having hit Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of homes in Louisiana remain without power and New Orleans is under a night-time curfew.

Source: BBC