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Dozens Dead After Ida Remnants Flooded Areas Of The Northeast

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Many parts of the Northeast are recovering from historic rainfall after the remnants of Ida passed through last night. Flash flooding and other storm conditions are blamed for at least 40 deaths across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

NPR's Hansi Lo Wang joins us from New York City with the latest. Hi there.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us how the city's doing. How is New York holding up right now?

WANG: It's been a sad day. You know, within the city, many of the deaths have been in basement apartments that presumably flooded very quickly last night. And there's a lot of trauma, especially for people who have been displaced. The city's subway is slowly coming back, but many folks still do not have electricity back yet.

I talked to Lei Zhi earlier today. She lives in a basement apartment in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens. And she told me in Cantonese she came home last night after working a shift at a restaurant, took a shower to get ready for bed and came out of the bathroom to find her home flooded. Let's listen.

LEI ZHI: (Speaking Cantonese).

WANG: And Lei Zhi told me people in neighboring basement apartments also saw water just gushing into their homes. She had about a foot of water that she spent the morning bailing out. And I talked to Lei Zhi's daughter, Katherine Lam, who lives out of state and is trying to support her mom over the phone. And she told me they were both so surprised because her mom lives in a part of Queens that's inland.

SHAPIRO: And beyond New York, as I mentioned, areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania were also hit hard by this storm. What have you heard from people there?

WANG: Parts of South Jersey saw tornadoes that wrecked homes. And there was heavy rainfall that swelled rivers in north New Jersey as well as in southeastern Pennsylvania, and it's all turned many roads into rivers or even lakes. WNYC talked to two residents in Newark, N.J. - Luis Barahona, who had about 3 feet of water in his basement, and Sara Coalho, whose home did not flood but has been having a hard time getting around because many streets have been impassable. Let's listen.

LUIS BARAHONA: Bed and some furnitures, chairs, the cabinets - everything is flooded. The pump was keeping up pretty good, but then when the water start coming in through the walls, that was it.

SARA COALHO: My friends lost their clothes, lost their car. And everybody's sad because I need to work, and my family need to be working.

SHAPIRO: So what have state governments said they need at this point in the storm response?

WANG: Well, they're asking for more federal funding for cleanup efforts and to provide relief to people and businesses directly affected by the storm. And both New York and New Jersey's governors have emphasized that this storm is in many ways another wake-up call that climate change is creating the conditions that make flash flooding and other extreme weather more common and more intense.

SHAPIRO: And what do we know so far about what local officials are going to be doing to address this?

WANG: Well, New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio said maybe the city needs to take a more dramatic approach when it warns people about future rainstorms and tell people to expect and prepare for the very worst whenever there's rain in the forecast. And, you know, the challenge here is that there's no quick or easy fix. And let's not forget, there are multiple challenges right now. You know, earlier today, New York City sent out a text alert that said because of the storm damage, the city's had to close some COVID-19 vaccination sites.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reporting from New York City. Thank you.

WANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.