By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — Even as a downgraded tropical storm, Ida, which caused untold damage in the South as a hurricane, continued to wreak havoc in its path along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Sept. 1. Its remnants flooded parts of the New York subway as well as Newark International Airport in New Jersey, resulting in more than two dozen deaths in the region.
Residents in some parts of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and New Jersey woke up Sept. 2 to beautiful blue and clear skies but currents of water from the day before, some overtaking roads in cities such as Philadelphia.
Amtrak canceled a major transportation route, from Washington to Boston, Sept. 2, as local governments were trying to grapple with river banks about to crest. Workers rushed to clean debris from heavy winds and tornadoes that tore through places such as Annapolis, Maryland, and Mullica Hill, New Jersey, where a cluster of homes was flattened. At least four tornadoes were reported as the storm passed through.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning Sept. 1 for parts of New York City, where residents had never experienced one before. Some of deaths that resulted didn’t come from the tornadoes or wind, but from the rapidly rising waters that surprised those living in ground-level or basement apartments and homes.
In Elizabeth, New Jersey, authorities reported that four people living on the ground-level of an apartment building had died in such a manner. Similarly, a 19-year-old in Rockville, Maryland, died while trying to save his mother when water came rushing into their basement-level apartment.
Television news reports showed rescue crews picking up Delaware and Pennsylvania residents from row homes, where the first floors were underwater, in inflatable boats well into the day after the storm.
In Louisiana, where the storm first made landfall in the U.S., authorities revised the death toll to six, but the breadth of the devastation in southern states, including nearby Mississippi, is yet unknown as the area remains without electricity, and recovery efforts are still underway.
President Joe Biden is scheduled to survey damage in the state Sept. 3, but during an address to the country following reports of the devastation along the Northeast, he urged Congress to pass his infrastructure proposal. He said it was necessary, given that the deadly fires, such as the one taking place around Lake Tahoe, California, and floods were signals of the effects of global warming many had long feared.
“Extreme storms and the climate crisis are here,” he said, adding that they are “one of the great challenges of our time.”
He vowed to send federal help to states that need it via the Federal Emergency Management Agency and called on private insurance companies to “do the right thing” and pay for temporary housing for those affected.
“Don’t hide behind the fine print and technicality,” he said. “No one fled this killer storm because they were looking for a vacation, or a road trip, or (to be) able to stay in a hotel. They left their homes because they felt it was flee or risk death. There’s nothing voluntary about that.”
The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, expressed “prayers and many blessings for all who have been affected by #HurricaneIda,” via a Twitter post on Sept. 2.
Catholic Charities USA is accepting donations for all those affected at www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.