NEW YORK — The death toll from the remnants of Hurricane Ida's stunning blast through the Northeast rose to eight on Thursday after a wide swath of the region became overwhelmed by fierce downpours and localized flooding.
At least seven people in New York City died in the storm, police said. In New Jersey, Passaic Mayor Hector Lora said one person died there in a submerged car. Flooding was also reported in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. More than 230,000 homes and businesses in the region were without power Thursday morning.
In New York, flooding in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn turned major streets into rivers and swamped basement and first floor apartments as the heavy rain pounded the city for multiple hours Wednesday night. The National Weather Service office in New York declared a flash flooding emergency, a rare warning for situations where the flooding is “leading to a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage.”
The city’s emergency management department warned all residents to avoid travel overnight. Videos shared on social media showed the Brooklyn Queens Expressway impassible, cars stuck in streets in Elmhurst, Queens, and water racing into subway stations in Manhattan.
New York police responded to numerous 911 calls, but the department did not have an initial tally of how many water rescues it was involved in as of Thursday morning.
In Brooklyn, Dan Melamid was on the phone with a friend when he looked out the window of his apartment and saw how high the water was getting.
“I thought this was Noah’s Ark,” he said.
He grabbed his flip-flops — the first shoes available — and ran to his car before the flood waters could pick it up and move it, a fate other drivers couldn’t avoid near McCarren Park. The water was nearly into his car when he got to it, but he was able to find a spot several blocks from worst flooding. In the scramble, he lost a flip-flop.
"I had to walk home barefoot,” he said.
The National Weather Service recorded 3.15 inches of rain in New York’s Central Park in one hour late Wednesday, far surpassing the record 1.94 inches that fell in one hour during Tropical Storm Henri less than two weeks ago.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency Wednesday night as the National Weather Service also warned water-logged New Jersey was at risk for tornadoes.
New York’s FDR Drive, a major artery on the east side of Manhattan, and the Bronx River Parkway were under water late Wednesday evening.
NYC subway status in flux for morning rush
Subway stations and tracks became so flooded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended all service. Videos posted online showed subway riders standing on seats in cars filled with water.
Although the rain had ended overnight, 21 areas of the New York City subway system still had some flooding as of 6 a.m., acting MTA Chairman Janno Lieber told NY1. Pumping was continuing, and subway service should increase, but Lieber declined to predict when the system would return to full service.
"Service is largely suspended due to heavy rainfall and flooding across the region," MTA said in a 5 a.m. notice on its website. "Please avoid all unnecessary travel at this time."
Here's what you need to know about flash floods: 'They can occur in all 50 states'
Over 230,000 without power across Northeast
Almost 100,000 homes and businesses across Pennsylvania were without power Thursday morning, according to the tracking website poweroutage.us. Another 60,000 were in the dark in New Jersey, and more than 40,000 in New Jersey. Another 30,000 homes and businesses were without power in Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
"Our crews are working around the clock to restore outages and prevent flood damage to electrical equipment in the areas hardest hit by remnants of Ida," Pennsylvania Power and Light said in a tweet.
Historic rainfall in Pennsylvania
In Philadelphia, Schuylkill River flooding forced officials to close parts of the Vine Street Expressway and Schuylkill Expressway, two major commuter arteries. Across the state, about 3,000 people were evacuated near the city of Johnstown – where the Great Flood of 1889 killed more than 2,000 – after heavy rains threatened a local dam.
Ida could go down as one of the wettest storms to go through central Pennsylvania, according to the National Weather Service. Some areas reported more than 6 inches of rain, flooding roads and overflowing creeks. The region had a number of warnings or watches for tornadoes, thunderstorms and flash floods.
New Jersey residents urged to stay off roads
"Stay off the roads, stay home, and stay safe," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on Twitter amid dozens of videos going viral on social media, showing streets with rapid-moving water. Murphy declared a state of emergency in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.
Jarring footage showed water inside Newark Liberty International Airport and water rushing into baggage facilities. The airport announced on Twitter that it had suspended all flight activity as of 10:30 p.m. Limited flights began a couple hours later.
New Jersey Transit said almost all train service suspended.
"All light rail & buses are subject to suspensions, detours, and delays due to widespread weather issues," the agency tweeted.
Bacon reported from Arlington, Va. Contributing: Christal Hayes and Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY; The Associated Press