- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 2, 2021

Mid-Atlantic states spent Thursday mourning the dead and cleaning up debris-strewn downtowns, flooded basements and downed trees after the remnants of Hurricane Ida thrashed the region.

The storms spawned deadly tornadoes in Maryland and New Jersey and lashed Pennsylvania and New York with historic rainfall, trapping motorists in their vehicles and killing at least 46 people.

The Schuylkill River overflowed, closing major interstates around Philadelphia. The storm dropped more than 5 inches of rain in Manhattan’s Central Park within three hours late Wednesday.

“New York recorded more rain yesterday, the first day of September, than it usually sees the entire month of September,” President Biden said Thursday.

He pledged the resources of multiple government agencies to assist victims of the far-reaching storm, which knocked out power and caused billions of dollars in damage along the Gulf Coast before stretching into the Northeast.

“My message to everyone affected is we’re all in this together. The nation is here to help,” Mr. Biden said.

The president outlined his administration’s response ahead of a Friday visit to Louisiana to survey the hurricane damage with Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Hurricane Ida is the fifth most powerful storm to strike the U.S., with maximum winds of 150 miles per hour. More than 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi were without electricity Thursday after high winds knocked out power grids. At least six deaths in the Gulf Coast region have been attributed to Ida, and rampant flooding and tornadoes in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions killed at least 45 others.

Of the dozens killed, one was a 2-year-old in New York City and another was a New Jersey man in his 70s who was trapped in a car in Passaic flooding.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the deluge a “historic weather event.” The Metropolitan Transit Authority warned commuters that options were limited. The city fire department rescued hundreds of people from flooded roadways and subway stations.

“We’re still uncovering the true depth of the loss,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said as she grappled with her first major crisis after taking the reins from Andrew Cuomo last week.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, pledged to deliver federal aid to the Northeast akin to Superstorm Sandy.

“That will mean money, money for homeowners and individuals, money for small businesses that may have been lost,” he said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy pleaded with motorists to give workers space to clear debris and water from roadways. He toured hard-hit areas, including Mullica Hill in southern Gloucester County, where tornadoes wrecked homes.

“This is going to take us some time to dig out of — there’s no question about it,” Mr. Murphy said in front of a row of defaced homes.

The storm blew through the mid-Atlantic states with at least two tornadoes, heavy winds and drenching rains that collapsed the roof of a U.S. Postal Service building in New Jersey and threatened to overrun a dam in Pennsylvania.

Utilities reported hundreds of thousands of customers without power in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“This is on par with Hurricane Irene,” Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla told CNN. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In Pennsylvania, 6 to 8 inches of rain made Philadelphia’s Vine Street Expressway look more like a river and split the city center into two.

Gov. Tom Wolf said residents will be dealing with “hard emotions” for days to come. Flooding issues rarely seen smacked parts of his state.

“We experienced a historic storm here all the way across the commonwealth,” Mr. Wolf said.

In Rockville, Maryland, water had almost reached the ceilings of basements Wednesday when crews arrived at an apartment complex. A 19-year-old was found dead, another person was missing (later found) and about 200 people from 60 apartments near Rock Creek were displaced, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said.

“In many years, I have not seen circumstances like this,” Chief Goldstein said.

A tornado was reported to have touched down near Annapolis along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

“We are thankful that there were no fatalities and no reported injuries. The fact remains we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said.

The National Weather Service had predicted flooding from what remained of Hurricane Ida. Reports said steep terrain and city streets were particularly vulnerable to a band of severe weather that extended to Massachusetts, where tornado warnings were issued early Thursday.

Tropical Storm Henri saturated the region a little more than a week ago, leaving it more vulnerable to flooding.

Leaders across the Tri-State region blamed climate change. They said major storms are increasingly common and the U.S. needs to get smart about its defenses.

“The world is changing. These storms are coming in more frequently,” Mr. Murphy said. “They’re coming in with more intensity.”

Mr. Schumer declared after two record rainfalls in one week that “global warming is upon us.” He used the torrents as a selling point for Mr. Biden‘s infrastructure plan in Congress.

Earlier Wednesday, Tropical Storm Larry was strengthening and moving quickly westward after forming off the coast of Africa. Forecasters predicted the storm would intensify like Ida and become a major hurricane with top wind speeds of 120 mph by Saturday.

Mr. Biden is scheduled to meet Friday with Mr. Edwards and local officials digging out from Ida’s early assault.

“There’s nothing quite like visiting in person,” Mr. Edwards told reporters at midweek. “When you see it for yourself, it is just so much more compelling.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, issued a statement thanking Mr. Biden for visiting his state to help “understand the magnitude of the situation.”

Mr. Biden said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had deployed more than 250 generators to Gulf Coast states and was working to provide more to hospitals and other critical care facilities.

For the first time, the federal government activated surveillance drones to assess storm damage to energy infrastructure. The Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security made available satellite images for local authorities to survey the extent of Ida’s damage.

The Federal Communications Commission will work with cellular providers to allow customers to use other providers if their cellphone service is down temporarily.

Mr. Biden ordered the Department of Health and Human and Services to open a 250-bed medical shelter in New Orleans and activate five medical assistance teams throughout the state. Roughly 50 Red Cross shelters opened across the impacted states.

“We will be working around the clock until the critical needs of the region are fully met, and we will meet them,” Mr. Biden said.

The president also addressed reports that insurance companies could deny assistance to hurricane victims unless the homeowners were under mandatory evacuation orders.

He called on insurance companies not to “hide behind the fine print” and urged them to do the right thing.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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