Hochul vows review of NY's preparation for Hurricane Ida flooding
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed Thursday to conduct an autopsy of the state's preparation for the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which caused major flooding in New York City and the Hudson Valley after unleashing torrential rain in the region late Wednesday.
At least nine people died overnight in New York City alone as Ida's rainfall caused basement apartments and highways to be overrun with water, while public transit ground to a halt and a stretch of Interstate 87 remained closed for much of Thursday.
Of those nine people confirmed dead by Thursday afternoon, eight died in their residences, according to New York City officials.
Hochul, speaking at a joint news conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said she will direct the state to conduct a full after-action report to determine if more could have been done to prepare for the storm or if there were any "intelligence failures" leading up to it.
"I know I deployed resources yesterday morning, but we did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night, that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls-level water to the streets of New York," Hochul said. "Could that have been anticipated? I want to find out. Is that something we should have known in advance?"
Hochul spoke to President Joe Biden, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and other members of New York's federal delegation Thursday morning, she said in a press briefing in Great Neck, and they vowed to provide federal dollars for cleanup efforts and infrastructure improvements.
"They are 100% committed to working to bring the dollars home to do long-overdue improvements to areas that you don't even see on a street like this where it could be compromised...the raging floodwaters cannot be contained by the existing storm sewers and drainage systems," she said.
Rapid rainfall causes problems for NYC area
De Blasio said the weather forecasts for much of Thursday were for up to six inches of rain over the course of the day, which is "not a particularly problematic amount."
But between 8:51 p.m. and 9:51 p.m., Central Park saw 3.15 inches of rain — a record amount of rainfall for a single hour at that location, besting the previous record set late last month by more than an inch, according to the National Weather Service.
"It turned into the biggest single hour rainfall in New York City history with almost no warning," de Blasio said. "So now we've got to change the ground rules. From now on, what I think we do is tell New Yorkers to expect the very, very worst. It may sound alarmist at times, but unfortunately it's been proven by nature."
Hochul declared a state of emergency early Thursday as the floodwaters overtook highways and subway stations, leading to viral images across social media platforms.
The National Weather Service's New York City office issued its first ever flash-flood emergency for much of the city and Westchester County around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.
By the early hours of Thursday, the entirety of New York City and the Mid and Lower Hudson Valley was under a hazardous weather watch in one form or another — with parts under a flash-flood warning and others under a flood warning.
Latest updates:Hudson Valley flooding, road closures, school delays
A tornado watch was in effect until 1 a.m. Thursday for the city, Long Island, Westchester County and Rockland County, according to the National Weather Service.
By Thursday morning, the state Thruway was closed on Interstate 87 from exit 12 to 14 in both directions, according to the Thruway Authority. Public transit was extremely limited in much of downstate New York.
NY Gov. Hochul declared state of emergency
Hochul's state of emergency declaration, which came at 12:18 a.m. Thursday, allows the state to more easily direct resources to areas of need.
The state of emergency applied to all of New York City and Long Island, as well as the Hudson Valley counties of Westchester, Rockland, Ulster, Dutchess and Orange, according to Hochul.
"I encourage New Yorkers in these affected areas to please pay attention to local weather reports, stay off the roads and avoid all unnecessary travel during this time," Hochul said in a statement.
Hochul's emergency declaration followed local states of emergency issued by a variety of mayors and local officials, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard.
In Rockland County, Ida's remnants led to flooding on major roadways including the Palisades Interstate Parkway, according to County Executive Ed Day.
Late Wednesday, he urged residents to remain off the roads throughout the overnight hours.
"This storm is dangerous and the risk to your life if you attempt to travel right now is severe," Day said in a statement. "Please stay off the road, stay safe and allow our first responders to do their jobs."
Throughout much of the New York City area, rainfall totals piled up in the late hours of Wednesday and early Thursday, with parts seeing as much as 7 inches of rain over the last 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service.
Jon Campbell is the New York State Team editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
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