President Joe Biden has approved major disaster declarations in and around New York City following last week's catastrophic flash flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
The storm dropped historic rainfall on a large swath of the northeast stretching from Philadelphia to Massachusetts and hit the New York City metropolitan area particularly hard. The entire region was under a flash flood emergency for most of the night Wednesday, and more than 3 inches of rain were recorded in Central Park within just one hour. Flash flooding turned roads into river rapids and flooded homes and apartments. At least 41 people died in the storm and officials are still looking for some people who went missing in the deluge.
Biden is set to visit two of the hardest-hit areas on Tuesday -- New York City and Manville, New Jersey, --- to survey the damage.
The disaster declarations cover Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Westchester County in New York as well as Bergen, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Passaic and Somerset counties in New Jersey.
That means that residents and business owners affected by flooding and other damage can apply for a bevy of Federal Emergency Management Administration programs to clean up, make repairs and get temporary housing.
On Sunday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday's storm caused at least $50 million in damages; the state needed to prove at least $30 million in damages to get a disaster declaration approved. The dollar amount in New Jersey wasn't available - and Ida's true cost in the tri-state area likely won't be known for some time.
But the declarations, which were issued Sunday, don't include some areas that sustained damage during Ida. In New York, Manhattan is the most notable exception - but the county is eligible for some federal public assistance programs.
In New Jersey - Hudson County was left off the disaster declaration, prompting Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop to call out Gov. Phil Murphy.
"It is aboslutely crazy/shameful that Hudson County was not included in this list," he tweeted at his fellow Democrat. "We got the storm as bad as any NJ county with higher density in population. I urge you to work with our federal reps to fix this.
Fulop added that damages to Jersey City's infrastructure alone topped $35 million, above the threshold for a disaster declaration.
Murphy, touring flood-damaged areas of Lambertville on Labor Day, said Biden's major disaster declaration will allow individuals to receive assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. He added that he would be talking to Biden during his visit to about adding other counties to the major disaster declaration.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent part of the morning touring of storm damage in Queens with Deanne Criswell, the former city emergency management chief who’s now administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
One resident greeted de Blasio with an arm on his shoulder and a quip about their flooded homes.
“Welcome to Woodside," she said. "We have swimming pools in each house. So you can get your bathing suit on and take a dip with us.”
In the Hudson Valley, Metro-North said commuter rail service will return for Tuesday morning's rush hour after crews removed several feet of mud from the tracks and and restoring washed out slopes and ballast. Two of the four tracks on the Hudson line remain out of service for repairs between Riverdale and Tarrytown.
At least 17 people died in New York following Ida's historic and devastating flooding last week. In the first hours of the storm, neighborhoods saw a month's worth of rain in a single hour, catching millions by surprise as floodwaters quickly took over streets and flowed into countless basements.
It's the quickness of the deadly storm that the governor wants to be ready for in the near and distance future.
“I’m operating under the assumption that this could happen again in another 10 days," Hochul said while calling for an improved warning system.
In looking ahead to future climate threats, the governor announced millions in federal dollars she plans to allocate to storm resiliency. Hochul said there's $378 million in previously-awarded hazard migration funding from FEMA that'll be redirected into improving infrastructure. She called on local officials to help her identify projects that need immediate attention.
"I'm asking all of our local elected officials: tell me where the challenges are, tell me what you know could happen in a week from now if the same weather event happened and we will go right to those places first."
Hochul is also encouraging New Yorkers to check out the state's newest online resource to find additional information on applying for FEMA financial assistance and accessing shelter and food.
To apply for federal disaster assistance, visit www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-462-7485.