The New York area struggled on Thursday to overcome a devastating and deadly rainstorm brought on by the remnants of Hurricane Ida as local leaders acknowledged that the region would need to adjust to a reality in which extreme weather events were the norm.
At least 20 people were killed by the storm, which left more than 150,000 homes in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania without power. A tornado in southern New Jersey leveled a stretch of houses. States of emergency remained in effect across the region by midday Thursday, as officials sought to get a handle on the unanticipated damage.
At a news conference in Queens on Thursday morning, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said that she had received a call from President Biden, who she said “offered any assistance” as the state assessed the damage from Ida, a storm that she said represented a new normal.
“We need to foresee these in advance, and be prepared,” she said.
“Global warming is here,” said Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor.
The deluge of rain on Wednesday — more than half a foot fell in just a few hours — turned streets and subway platforms into rivers. Emergency responders in boats rescued people from the rooftops of cars. Hundreds of people were evacuated from trains and subways.
The rain broke records set just 11 days before by Tropical Storm Henri, underscoring warnings from climate scientists of a new normal on a warmed planet: Hotter air holds more water and allows storms to gather strength more quickly and grow ever larger.
Though the region awoke to a sunny day, New York City’s subway lines remain at least partly suspended, along with commuter rail service across the region. Airports are open but hundreds of flights have been canceled. Rescues continued, and some rivers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were still rising.
In New York City, the dead ranged in age from a 2-year-old boy to an 86-year-old woman, the police said. Some drowned in basement apartments in Queens, where a system of makeshift and mostly illegally converted living spaces has sprung up.
Five people were found dead in an apartment complex in Elizabeth, N.J., city officials said Thursday. Another death occurred in Passaic, N.J., where the Passaic River breached its banks and fish flopped in the streets.