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Police sergeant among more than 60 deaths blamed on Ida; NYC basement apartments under scrutiny

Hurricane Ida (Michael M Stokes/WikiCommons)
September 08, 2021

Police sergeant among more than 60 deaths blamed on Ida; NYC basement apartments under scrutiny

The nation on Saturday is learning more about the more than 60 people whose deaths were blamed on the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Ida and its remnants. Many of the victims drowned in cars or were swept away by flood waters.

Connecticut State Police sergeant Brian Mohl was among those who died in flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Three nursing home residents died after being evacuated to a warehouse in Louisiana. A 31-year-old New Jersey resident was killed when he was swept into a 36-inch storm sewer.

At least 25 people died in New Jersey, which had the highest death toll of any state. Most drowned in their vehicles. A family of three were killed after water rushed into their Elizabeth, New Jersey apartment.

In New York City, 11 people died as their low-lying apartments flooded with a deluge of storm water. Among them were a man, a woman and a 2-year-old boy in Queens.

Of the six apartments where people drowned in New York City, five were illegal basement dwellings, officials said Friday.

In the Northeast, at least 50 people died from Virginia to Connecticut. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama saw at least 14 deaths. Several deaths were also blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning from back-up generators running improperly.

Hundreds of thousands were still without power in the South as storm cleanup efforts continued.

In New York, subways began running Friday, but north of the city, train services remained stalled as mud covered tracks. Transportation services weren’t expected to be restored in the Hudson Valley until early next week.

Firefighters struggled to access fires burning in flooded homes and businesses in the Northeast, likely caused by gas leaks. The owner of a New Jersey banquet hall watched his business as it was engulfed in flames Friday. And police traveled door to door, searching for victims as death tolls rose.

The carnage comes days after Hurricane Ida, one of the strongest storms to ever hit mainland U.S., ripped ashore in Louisiana before slamming into the Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday. As of now, Ida is the deadliest hurricane the U.S. has seen in four years and the deadliest storm in the Northeast since 2012’s catastrophic Superstorm Sandy, which killed more than 100 people.

Flooded illegal basement apartments turn deadly in New York

Illegal basement dwellings are receiving renewed scrutiny in Ida’s aftermath.

“We have an illegal basement problem,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Friday news conference, adding that many residents of these apartments are fearful of speaking up about conditions because they may be evicted.

Illegally converted apartments often have no escape route for emergencies, poor ventilation, and improper electrical work, all of which can create additional dangers during extreme weather events, according to the city’s department of housing preservation and development.

“We know the basement apartments create a whole set of particular challenges,” de Blasio said.

He said the city would create a cellphone alert system or use door-to-door evacuations for basement apartment residents, adding officials would work with community organizations to reach vulnerable residents. But first, he said, the city needs to build a database of these apartments.

New York Attorney General Letitia James called on the city to provide special emergency housing vouchers to New Yorkers in illegal basement dwellings in a Friday statement. She also encouraged regular inspections of these apartments.

“Extreme rainfall and other severe weather events are now the rule, not the exception, in New York,” James said in the statement. “In the face of that risk, it is our duty to move these New Yorkers out of harm’s way by offering them safer, regulated housing. “

Mayor urges New Orleans residents to come home after evacuations

At a Friday news conference, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell encouraged residents who evacuated to begin returning home as power is expected to be back by next week.

Cantell said returning residents can take in neighbors and family members still without electricity to help ongoing relief efforts.

“We are saying, you can come home,” Cantell said Friday, adding that the city would provide transportation starting Saturday for those needing public shelter.

As of Friday, much of the city was still in the dark, but electricity is expected to return by Wednesday for most of New Orleans, according to a Friday statement from Entergy, the company that provides electricity for much of southeast Louisiana.

But outside of the city, the hardest-hit parts of the state remained without power and running water and with limited cellphone service and gasoline almost a week after Ida arrived ashore in Louisiana.

About 36% of utility customers statewide — more than 800,000 homes and businesses — were without power Friday evening, according to the Public Service Commission. But when the storm arrived Sunday, 1.1 million were without power.

Entergy said crews have restored power to approximately 225,000 customers since Ida made landfall, and it reported more than 14,000 damaged or destroyed electricity poles, 2,223 damaged or destroyed transformers and 155 destroyed transmission structures.


(c) 2021 USA Today

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