Much of the northeastern United States faced severe weather warnings on Wednesday as the remnants of Hurricane Ida continued to trudge north, sparking torrential rain, flash-flood emergencies and even a tornado warning in the Bronx.
The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado in New Jersey near the border with Pennsylvania, urging residents to take cover immediately. Footage of the storm showed a large funnel cloud passing by a bridge connecting the two states, and local media released initial reports of severe damage to some homes. Another tornado was reported in Annapolis, Maryland, causing widespread damage and leaving about 2,500 people without power.
Rain poured in sheets across the nation’s largest city as New Yorkers’ phones buzzed with a National Weather Service warning declaring the flash floods a “dangerous and life-threatening situation.” The sky lit up repeatedly throughout the evening with bright blasts of lightning, and the streets in the western part of Queens, turned into swift, shallow rivers.
Flash flooding is already occurring in the metropolitan New York area, the NWS said as it urged residents to move to high ground and to not attempt to travel unless fleeing a dangerous area. Central Park saw more than 3 inches of rain in a single hour, and subway service across New York and Long Island was partially suspended.
“This is a PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION,” the NWS wrote on Twitter just before 10 p.m. EDT. “SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!”
Parts of the tri-state area had seen 6, 7 or 8 inches of rain in 48 hours. The National Weather Service office in New York said it was the first time it had ever issued a flash flood emergency for New York City.
At least one person died in New Jersey after they were trapped inside their vehicle, local officials said.
Videos on social media showed subway platforms deluged by stormwater. Parts of Newark International Airport appeared flooded, and there were growing reports of cars trapped in rising waters.
“We are seeing way too many reports of water rescues and stranded motorists,” the NWS in New York said. “Do not drive through flooded roadways. You do not know how deep the water is and it is too dangerous.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said her office was investigating if it could declare a state of emergency, although she told CNN late Wednesday she expected to do so in the coming hours.
“New Yorkers are very concerned tonight and they’re scared,” she said, urging residents to stay put while adding she could not guarantee rescue workers would be able to rescue those who leave their homes and get trapped in floodwaters.
The storm also prompted suspensions at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, underway in Queens, amid a tornado watch.
Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday as a Category 4 behemoth, packing sustained winds of about 150 mph and causing “catastrophic” damage across Louisiana. Much of New Orleans remains without power days later, although officials have confirmed just seven fatalities related to the storm so far. The true toll is likely to rise as rescue workers sift through neighborhoods devastated by Ida.
The storm diminished in strength as it moved inland and has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, but it has continued to wallop states with severe winds and rain.
Alexander Kaufman contributed reporting to this story.
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