By Steve Almasy, Jason Hanna and Madeline Holcombe, CNN
The death toll from flooding after the remnants of Hurricane Ida pummeled cities in the East rose sharply to 46 on Thursday after New Jersey announced at least 23 people had died there.
Gov. Phil Murphy said the majority of the deaths were people caught in their vehicles by flooding and were “overtaken by the water.” Officials said many people were unaccounted for.
“We’re going to withhold a complete rundown of the blessed losses of life. They are spread across a handful of counties, largely concentrated — not entirely — but largely concentrated in central Jersey and a few in the north,” Murphy said in an evening update.
Dozens have died in six Eastern states — Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia — after the storm brought unprecedented rainfall to some areas.
The death toll included a state trooper in Connecticut who was swept away as he responded to a missing person’s call.
On Thursday, water rescues continued in some areas, and in New York City a new task force was going to homes to make sure there weren’t more victims in basements.
In southern New Jersey, residents were cleaning up from a tornado that flattened homes, one of eight twisters that hit the Northeast.
In the Philadelphia area, some streets were swamped, delaying the city’s rail and bus services, closing city buildings and prompting leaders to urge people to work from home.
Rescuers navigated boats through flooded streets Thursday morning in and around Philadelphia, northern Delaware and parts of New York state, ferrying people from flooded homes.
In Pennsylvania alone, thousands of rescues are believed to have happened so far, state emergency management Director Randy Padfield said.
“There’s a lot of damage, and I made clear to the governors that my team at … FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is on the ground and ready to provide all the assistance that is needed,” President Joe Biden said.
In New York City, first responders rescued commuters from halted subway trains Wednesday night, while other travelers were stranded overnight in subway stations, some sleeping on benches with service suspended and no way to get to their destinations.
NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison said Thursday that 835 people were rescued from the subway system.
Beverly Pryce, a nurse from Queens, was among those who stayed overnight in a Manhattan subway station, having left her home Wednesday night to go to work, only for the flooding to bring everything to a standstill.
“(I’ve seen) nothing like this,” she told CNN on Thursday morning. “I didn’t expect it to be this severe; I would not have left my house.”
Amrita Bhagwandin’s home in Queens flooded.
“I can’t think anymore about how I feel at this point because of the chaos outside, my neighbors, there’s loss of life,” she told CNN. “I’ve lost everything in here and mostly the lives out there… we need some support … this is too much for us. There is no end in sight.”
Harrison said there were 18 water rescues at the US Open tennis site in Flushing.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul told CNN that the state is used to disasters but this would be a massive cleanup.
“I would urge people to stay home, check on your neighbors, make sure they’re OK,” she said.
Murphy called the flooding that impacted New Jersey “historic by any measure.”
“It’s never flooded like this, it’s never rained like this,” Murphy said, adding that state officials will do an investigation into the storm and their response.
Murphy said storms like Ida reflect climate change realities and the need to address it. “These storms are coming more frequently and with more intensity, so there’s no denying it,” Murphy said.
Emergencies were declared for New York state, New York City and New Jersey. In New York City alone, firefighters rescued hundreds of people from vehicles on flooded roads and hundreds more from the subway system, the city fire department said Thursday.
13 killed in NYC, many of them in basements in Queens, officials say
Of the 46 killed, 16 died in New York state. Thirteen of those were in New York City, and three people died in Westchester County after getting out of their vehicles in flash flooding, officials said.
Of those who died in New York City, at least eight died in flooded basements of homes in Queens, city police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
The Connecticut state trooper who died was a sergeant who had been with the agency for 26 years. He was carried away by the rising waters when he arrived at 4 a.m. to investigate a report of someone missing in Woodbury due to the flooding.
Six of the 23 New Jersey deaths were announced by local officials.
In Elizabeth, four residents drowned in an apartment complex along the Elizabeth River, Mayor Chris Bollwage said.
In Passaic, a man in his 70s was found dead after floodwaters overtook the vehicle he was in, Mayor Hector Lora told CNN’s Don Lemon.
A man in his 50s was swept away by floodwaters in Maplewood and later found dead in Millburn, a few miles to the west, according to Maplewood police.
In Pennsylvania, three storm-related deaths were reported in Montgomery County, said Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the county board of commissioners.
And Bridgeport manager Keith S. Truman told CNN that one person has died in the town due to floodwaters.
In Maryland’s Montgomery County, a 19-year-old was found dead Wednesday in a flooded apartment complex, and his death is preliminarily attributed to the storm, police said.
In Virginia, searchers found one body in the Guesses Fork area of Hurley, according to the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office.
Northeast shocked by ferocity and speed flooding
The rate of rainfall was stunning and sometimes unprecedented.
New York’s Central Park recorded its wettest hour on record, with 3.15 inches falling from 8:51 to 9:51 p.m. The park’s total rainfall — 7.13 inches — was its fifth-highest total for one day.
Newark, New Jersey, received its highest one-day total on record: 8.41 inches.
The Northeast and mid-Atlantic areas were under flash-flood watches earlier Wednesday as the remnants of Ida — which made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday as a major hurricane and devastated parts of that state — approached.
Ida transitioned from a tropical depression to a post-tropical cyclone over the Appalachians as it rolled into the Northeast. Heavy rain was expected — but where, precisely, the heaviest rain would fall wasn’t known until shortly before it happened, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told CNN on Thursday.
“People are just shocked by this,” said Hochul, the New York governor. “I mean, this is an event that we planned for — we started deploying resources to the region the night before and in the morning before.”
“But once that rain starts coming down and it’s just unrelenting, there’s nothing that the people can do other than look up with their jaws dropped and say, ‘What is happening here?'” Hochul said.
After the storm, New York’s subway system was temporarily halted, with the exception of two lines due to the flooding, leaving many people stranded and unsure how they would get home.
Some were idled on a subway near Times Square around 1:20 a.m. after traveling from the US Open. Videos from the station showed a waterfall flowing off of the train car roof and onto people trying to get out — as well as a drink kiosk being whirled around by the wind.
While some subway service resumed, commuter rail lines were expected to offer only extremely limited service because of power issues and debris, officials said.
NJ: Tornado in the south, flooding in the north
In southern New Jersey, an EF-3 tornado with 150 mph winds swept through. It destroyed or severely damaged 25 homes in Mullica Hill, about 25 miles from Philadelphia, police Lt. David Marrow said.
Hundreds of trees were downed, and power was knocked out for a third of the township, Marrow said. No deaths were reported there, Gov. Murphy said.
“This is going to take some time to dig out of, there’s no question about it,” Murphy said, standing in front of one of the wrecked homes.
Kristi Johnson was on the phone with her husband and in a parked vehicle when she saw the twister and debris.
“I rolled my window down and it sounded like a train coming. I hung up on my husband and started to drive away from it,” Johnson told CNN. “It was extremely scary.”
Many towns in northern New Jersey reported widespread flooding that damaged homes and businesses and forced drivers to abandon their cars.
In Clifton, a fire ambulance was seen submerged in the floodwaters along with several other submerged vehicles.
Flooding in Philadelphia; 41 rescued from Pennsylvania school bus
Parts of the Philadelphia area flooded, leaving some vehicles still underwater in streets and highways Thursday morning. The Schuylkill River was more 2 feet above major flood stage at one point in the morning.
At least 100 people were rescued from floodwaters in Philadelphia alone as of noon Thursday.
Pennsylvania is slowly moving into “recovery mode” and there was a “long road ahead of us, Gov. Tom Wolf said.
“I know many people in Pennsylvania are hurting,” Wolf said, adding that the southeastern part of the state appears to have sustained the most damage.
At least 500 calls for rescue were fielded in Montgomery County north of Philadelphia, said Padfield, the state emergency management director. That includes Bridgeport, where rescue teams were using boats to reach people stranded in flooded apartments, video from CNN affiliate WPVI showed.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, the storm trapped a school bus in floodwaters Wednesday in Shaler Township. The school district and local volunteer fire company confirmed that 41 passengers were rescued from the bus.
Video shows a team of at least four wading through water nearly up to their waist to help the passengers onto a small boat. The rescued students were then transported safely to the high school, Shaler Area School District said.
In Maryland, Ida’s downpour flooded at least 12 apartments at the the Rock Creek Woods complex in Rockville, where a 19-year-old man was found dead. Rescue personnel evacuated dozens of people there, officials said Wednesday.
Three people and one firefighter were transported to hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries.
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CNN’s Evan McMorris-Santoro, Shimon Prokupecz, Michael Guy, Mark Morales, Kristina Sgueglia, Lauren del Valle, Laura Ly, Keith Allen, Rob Frehse, Dave Alsup, Liam Reilly, Mirna Alsharif, Alta Spells, Kiely Westhoff, Paul Murphy and Colin McCullough contributed to this report.