HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA – The remnants of Hurricane Ida have inundated the northeastern U.S. with torrential rains and flooding over the past several days, killing more than 25 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.
From hard-hit Pennsylvania to Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, residents faced ruined property, supply shortages and grief.
President Joe Biden on Thursday pledged robust federal help for areas from the Gulf Coast to the northeast affected by Ida. The president said he will further press Congress to pass his nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill to improve roads, bridges, the electric grid and sewer systems.
“It’s a matter of life and death and we’re all in this together,” the president said.
In rain-soaked Pennsylvania, there are 389 roads closed statewide, with 243 shut as a result of flooding. Many are also impassable due to downed trees and limbs as well as utilities, state emergency officials said Thursday.
There are 16 major state interstates or expressways closed as well.
Dozens of roads in New Jersey and New York were also flooded.
The fire department in Wilmington, Delaware, performed water rescues and many streets and bridges remain closed, officials said. Flooding affected several neighborhoods and a Wilmington Fire Department spokesperson said crews had rescued 60 to 80 people by noon, The News Journal reported.
Delaware Department of Transportation Community Relations Director CR McLeod said the flooding was impacting homes and businesses and there were many vehicles underwater, WDEL-FM reported. More than 50 bridges would need to be surveyed and assessed, he said.
“A lot of this water is coming down from Pennsylvania with the excessive amounts of rain that they had associated with the storm yesterday. All that water is going to make its way down toward the Delaware River, and it’s all coming down the Brandywine.”
The Brandywine entered a major flood stage Wednesday night and by Thursday morning it reached a maximum crest of 23.1 feet, a new record, according to the National Weather Service. Waters began to recede and the it was expected to fall below flood stage early Friday, according to the agency.
In Connecticut, an on-duty state police sergeant died after his cruiser was swept away in flood waters early Thursday morning in Woodbury.
The 26-year veteran of the department called for help at about 3:30 a.m. Police searched the area with divers, helicopters, boats and drones and found the sergeant in the swollen river later in the morning after daybreak.
First responders performed live-saving measures and he was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Officials did not release the sergeant’s name, saying family notifications were still pending.
In Frederick County, Maryland, first responders used a boat to rescue 10 children and a driver from a school bus caught in rising flood waters. The county’s school superintendent faced criticism for not dismissing students early. He apologized, saying the decision to remain open led to “stress and anxiety for many,” The Frederick News-Post reported.
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield said that “While the water is receding in most parts of the state, we are still seeing ongoing flooding in the southeast portion of the state, some of which is surpassing record flood levels.
“We also know that Ida has not only caused significant damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure, but for many it has significantly disrupted lives and families. We continue to work with our federal and county partners to ensure that response and recovery efforts continue to move forward.”
Pennsylvania saw prolific rainfall, both in storm totals and rates. Reports from across the state range from 5 to 8 inches, some falling in a short time. Daily all-time records were broken; specifically, Scranton saw its second wettest day on record and Harrisburg and Altoona recorded their third wettest day.
“The remnants of Ida brought historic rainfall to Pennsylvania over the last several days,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a news release.
“This was a rare culmination of events that caused record flooding in many places around the commonwealth. Many people across the state are dealing with the aftereffects of the storm today.”
The National Weather Service will be out surveying potential tornado damage in Chester and Montgomery counties today, as well as three areas of Bucks County.
Rivers and waterways are still high across the state, especially in southeastern Pennsylvania. Several waterways shattered previous crest records, including points along the East Branch of the Brandywine, the Brandywine, the Perkiomen, and the Schuylkill rivers.
Approximately 120 Pennsylvania National Guard members remain on active duty statewide to support local emergency and rescue operations. The Commonwealth Response Coordination Center at PEMA remains activated.
“We understand that closed roadways and other impacts from the storm can be frustrating,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula. “Even though the rains have stopped, it is still so important that the public remain vigilant, and allow space for our crews and for emergency workers to do their jobs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.