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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ida's Remnants Batter Northeast with Torrential Rain, Flooding; Ida's Remnants Lash Mid-Atlantic and Northeast with Tornadoes. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 05:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. It is 5:00 a.m. in a very wet New York City. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. I'm in Clifton, New Jersey.

Passaic County, Essex County, much of the Northeast simply inundated last night with record-breaking rainfall. You have flooded basements, cars that have simply washed away. There will be a lot of people this morning, Laura, who will go out into their driveway and their car won't be there. The roads turned into rivers. It's just an awful mess.

JARRETT: An awful, awful mess, but I am glad that you are here with me, Christine, even if remotely. We begin with the breaking news this morning, catastrophic and deadly flooding in the Northeast spawned by what remains of Hurricane Ida, at least seven people have died in New York, five trapped by raging floods, one died in a building collapse, at least one person also dead in New Jersey.

The storms barreling into New York City overnight, flooding streets and homes from literally every direction. Look at that. A state of emergency declared in New York and New Jersey after the storm unleashed floodwaters. Three to five inches of rain an hour. New York City was under a flash flood emergency for the first time ever. Even the most hard core New Yorkers haven't seen anything like this since Hurricane Sandy.

Subways shut down with rivers of water cascading through platforms and cars there. Commuters stranded underground while aboveground MTA buses were paralyzed by floodwaters. Between 8:51 and 9:51 last night, Central Park recorded just over three inches of rain breaking the record set just 11 days ago there in Central Park. A travel ban for all nonemergency cars in effect for most of the night has just ended in New York City.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY (via telephone): We're going to have a tough few hours coming up until 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m. until we get the rain out of here. Tomorrow morning is going to be dangerous as well. I want to really urge anyone who is moving around tomorrow, do not go into a street, a road, a highway with a lot of water accumulated, that could be super dangerous.

I've never seen this much rainfall this quickly. It's absolutely astounding. You know, an inch, two an hour, that's one thing. We are talking about three inches, four inches in an hour. I mean, unbelievable accumulation. Absolutely different than everything that had been projected and I think this is sobering to see what's happening with weather in general.


JARRETT: Let's bring in meteorologist Pedram Javaheri live for us here this morning.

Pedram, we knew it was going to be bad but this is truly historic.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It's remarkable. You know, we saw when the Storm Prediction Center said this was a level four on a scale of one to four, the highest risk for excessive rainfall. You certainly knew it was going to be a wet day but when you see the amount of rain that came down in the short duration, that is unprecedented by in any metric.

And you can take a look, here is what is left of IDA as it finally pushes away from the United States over the next several hours. The last bit of thunderstorms, portions of, say, Rhode Island into Connecticut into Massachusetts, that's where we're seeing the thunderstorm activity finally begin to wane, there is a tornado watch around Cape Cod that's going to continue through at least 6:00 a.m. We have had at least five reports of tornadoes.

Anytime you see a tropical system, there's enough spin, there's enough rotation to spawn tornadoes, that's not unusual, but in places such as New Jersey you see two tornadoes per year, you've now seen one in the last few hours and 11 so far in 2021, an incredible year, really an incredible couple of weeks. Upwards of 50 million Americans at this hour underneath flood alerts, into the overnight hours we had flood emergencies which are the rarest of weather alerts to be put in place, only reserved when you have life-threatening flooding and water rescuers and catastrophic flooding taking place.

That's the verbiage the weather service uses. They have never issued it for New York City. It happened in the last few hours. When you see rainfall amounts as such, this coming down in a matter of three to five hours, that is as impressive as it gets.

In fact, you can look into the numbers, Newark sees its wettest day in recorded history. I checked in before the airport there, how about 300 plus flights preliminarily canceled already going into Thursday morning, the most disrupted airport in the world is Newark's liberty airport, second most disrupted airport in the world, New Orleans, but 90 percent of their flights also halted.

This wettest observation comes in in a one in a 1,000 year event. That amount of a rainfall happening in a day is an incredible amount of rainfall for any location, but for this area it's is 1,000-year event.


How about New York City? Central Park, that 3.15 inches. That's a 200- year event taking place or a one in 200 chance of this occurring. The pattern continues, severe weather has been in place, we think a couple more hours of active weather before it's all said and done and a storm that really had severe impacts from Louisiana all the way into New England.

Back to you.

JARRETT: A one in 1,000-year event. The wettest day on record for Newark.

All right. Pedram, thank you.


ROMANS: Yeah, you know, from 7:00 to midnight last night just epic, the conditions here. I spoke to a police officer about 45 minutes ago, you know, they are just going around pulling these cars out of streets. Cars that have been smashed by water. Nothing more than water smashing some of these cars up because these streets behind me here in Clifton and over the border in ,Montclair were literally rivers washing these cars away. We have a couple behind me that these people when they wake up this morning will not have their car in their driveway, it's been floated into the street.

In Passaic County, where I am, there was a fatality, a man in his 70s, a passenger in the car. The firefighters were trying to rescue him, and he's -- the firefighters were washed under the car, unable to save him, just a desperate -- a desperate attempt to save that life and were unable to do so in, again, these raging floodwaters that turned streets into rivers. The mayor of the city of Passaic had this dire warning.


MAYOR HECTOR LORA, PASSAIC, NJ: All restaurants, all businesses need to shut down, there should be nobody going out to go to restaurants or businesses or trying to travel in this weather. It is extremely dangerous right now. We are doing retrieval of bodies because of the storm. We are at a point where there's certain areas in the city where we can't even send our emergency responders because of potential danger.


ROMANS: This is indeed record breaking rain here. I mean, we have just never seen anything like it and that is a big piece of something that came down in the distance, the trees are soggy. Let's go to Polo Sandoval in Newark. I mean, I just -- you know, geez,

I have never seen anything like this and this morning a lot of people will wake up to really wet basements, downed trees, power outages and their car won't be in the driveway, Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Christine, eerie scenes in some New Jersey highways as well. I can tell you, just getting here from New York, we did pass from Brooklyn, we did actually pass New Jersey, several segments of the highways where there were basically abandoned vehicles on the side of the road, especially as you get close to the airport, and that's one of the reasons why operations there were disrupted late yesterday.

I should mention that operations were -- they did resume at Newark's airport just before midnight on a limited capacity. It's important that folks who may have travel plans out of that busy airport to call ahead or check in before they actually make their way in there.

Also to give themselves at least 30 minutes additional time to get to that location because the infrastructure was certainly affected. Anytime you have a one in 1,000 year event you will have that impact to infrastructure. When it comes to Newark's airport, by the way, look at these incredible images that came in from overnight, including the baggage area that was flooded. That's certainly not only hampering those flights that were heading out, but also for passengers that are coming in.

Access to the airport was temporarily blocked because of floodwaters but we're told much of that access has, again, been opened up. Really at the end of the day here, Christine, Laura, Governor Phil Murphy is declaring a state of emergency in all the counties throughout the state of New Jersey, recommending that people obviously try to stay home at least early, early this morning as they try to get a full assessment, a full picture of the extent of the damage throughout the garden state.

Back to you.

ROMANS: Yeah, Polo, thank you so much for that. Indeed, a state of emergency here in New Jersey and there is no reason to try to commute today if you were going to try to commute. There is a lot of damage assessment that still needs to happen here. We're seeing it on the streets around here, the police officers are just trying to figure out -- to make sure that it's safe in many of these streets because there is a lot of -- there's standing water in some cases and there are, you know, abandoned vehicles in a lot of places that have simply floated away -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yeah, you have to be careful in that standing water for sure. We always warn that.

Also, the subways in New York City truly submerged. We will have continuing coverage of this storm all morning, just look at that, it's just like a river in there. We're going to take you to the streets of New York City, that's next.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

To fully grasp just how much rain fell on New York City Wednesday night some advanced math might help her. If you assume 6.8 inches of rain fell equally on each of the city's five boroughs, that means 35 billion gallons of water fell on the city between 7:00 p.m. and midnight last night. Just stunning.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is live on the streets of New York City for us.

Evan, good morning.

Central Park got more than seven inches last night, almost double the previous record. What are you seeing this morning?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, any of us who live here in New York were absolutely gobsmacked by the amount of rain that came down last night. We know that it was a very dangerous storm, actually a deadly storm. We have now confirmed seven -- at least seven New Yorkers dead from this storm.

The rest of the city is now waking up this morning to a very uncertain picture when it comes to transportation and all the things that make this city work. I'm standing at the downtown station of the one train here in New York City, look, from up here it looks fine right now will you let me show you what it looked like last night when the rain was coming in.


You can see from this video a huge torrent of water pouring into that station and this morning that station is still closed. In fact, much of the subway system still knocked out by this storm. A lot of delays, a lot of suspended lines, a lot of things that aren't yet working.

Crews worked overnight to evacuate people from the trains that were stuck in the subway when the rainstorms started coming down. We saw a ground stop essentially of traffic here in New York City, it was just lift add few minutes ago, an emergency stop saying, you know, no vehicles other than emergency vehicles here on New York City streets. That's been lifted.

But those drains are still in trouble and as you know everything in the city happens underground. So many things, so many important things happen underground, those arteries of the city are currently still knocked out by these rains.

We see this happening, it's affected buses, affected the other kinds of transportation that we use to get around. So, right now, the city is still assessing the damage, still figuring out what to do, but as it stands right now it's still very, very hard to get around and despite what it looks like up here, below me it's still pretty messy -- Laura.

JARRETT: Hard to get around and hard to help people. Some of the people who were calling for help who unfortunately passed away were people who had called saying there was flooding in their homes, please come help me. Unfortunately not reached in time.

Evan, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Stay dry out there.

Christine, I will send it back to you.

ROMANS: Hi. Thank you, Laura. Yeah, I'm here in Clifton, New Jersey, where the cars behind me look like they're parked on the street. They're not. These are cars that have floated here from somewhere else with all kinds of debris underneath.

These streets behind me and all around here in these neighboring counties were rivers, actual rivers. We talked to a police officer about an hour ago in Montclair, New Jersey, who was saying that some of these cars that they're towing away this morning smashed up by water. They would just come all the way down, we saw one car that was being pulled away, maybe a of a mile later, a quarter of a mile down the road we found the front bumper of that car.

So, this is a water event that is something that is simply record- breaking. The basements of many of these homes are complete losses, will have to be gutted, water just gushing through windows and coming through the concrete and linoleum. So, a lot of people this morning have a very big cleanup.

But, of course, the recovery here just beginning to assess the damage. This all began of course in Louisiana. This is the story of Hurricane Ida and will be a long recovery for Louisiana. We're going to go there, next.



JARRETT: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of this record- setting rain across the Northeast.

Christine, you are in Montclair, New Jersey. Just tell me, what is it like? Is your basement flooded right now?

ROMANS: Yeah, my basement is flooded. Six big garbage cans full of water my kids pulled out last night and that Shop Vac has never worked so hard.

When you talk to people here creeping out this morning for the first time trying to see what the damage is, they all say their basements are flooded. And people who live around here, you know, they measure what's happened in their house based on what hurricane it is. Floyd was really bad. Of course, sandy was terrible. Irene was not great and this one, though, is record setting in terms of the amount of water that people are dealing with here. You can see behind me I'm actually just over the board from Montclair

in Clifton, New Jersey. These cars behind me they are not parked here on this street, they ended up here from somewhere else. That has been a real problem here. These streets, Laura, became rivers and cars were just being washed away.

The fatality we know in this county, in Passaic County, was an elderly man in a car, a passenger, a car that was washed away in a street that turned into a river and firefighters couldn't get him out. The firefighters were washed under that car, that is how much water was rushing down those streets. That tragedy there shows you from 7:00 last night to midnight what happened here, how much water was coming down so quickly that these streets just became rivers.

JARRETT: And I know it's still, obviously, before 6:00 a.m. and so not as many people are up right now, but do you see anyone on the streets? Do you see any emergency vehicles right now trying to clear some of this --

ROMANS: Oh, yeah.

JARRETT: -- or at least address some of this damage?

ROMANS: The emergency vehicles have been working -- yeah, the emergency vehicles have been working. You have power outages as well, you have power crews out here, downed power lines so you have cordons where they are not letting you drive through.

And also, some streets have had to be closed because we don't know what kind of debris is left here. I mean, under this car behind me, there's all kinds of garbage and debris and dangerous pieces of metal.

I told you a few minutes ago we found a big bumper of a car, a car that had been smashed up by the waters, that bumper about a quarter of a mile, maybe half a mile away from where the car was being towed. So, I mean, it's just a lot of debris here, a lot of water in the basements, still some power outages and police and first responders very carefully trying to keep people off the streets, stay home, there will be no commuting today.

This isn't really the morning to be rubber necking because it's, you know, very fresh here all this damage.

JARRETT: Yeah, no, this is the day to stay home, even if you wanted to go out you can't.

So, Christine, you put those boys to work and get going on that cleanup effort.


JARRETT: Before the historic floods overnight into the Northeast, Ida unleashed powerful tornadoes from the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast. They first touched down in a primarily commercial area of Annapolis, Maryland, and caused an active gas leak.


Then, in Mullica, in south New Jersey, residents watched their belongings get sucked into a funnel cloud.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard the train sound and when I stepped in the house I looked out and I saw my furniture just --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, you never expect anything like this to happen in this area because, I mean we are not in the Midwest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was putting down the garage door, I heard, you know this, rattle and my daughter ran out and said, get in the house, quick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It got black instantly and everything just boom -- and you could hear like -- the lights were flickering and everything was completely wiped out.


JARRETT: A tornado watch is still in effect until 7:00 a.m. eastern for parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

And in Louisiana recovery efforts are being hampered by fuel shortages, gas lines are long and the governor says the lack of fuel has to be addressed quickly to get the state back on its feet. The Biden administration announcing new steps to ease the shortage, waiving some penalties that are typically imposed on certain types of diesel.

ROMANS: Yeah, and in LaPlace, Louisiana, food is in short supply here in the days after hurricane Ida. The food lines are growing here.

Our Ed Lavandera is there for us this morning.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, gas lines and lines at food and water distribution sites like the one you're seeing here in LaPlace, Louisiana, this is the new normal for the time being here all across southeast Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The lines at this particular location have snaked out of this shopping center parking lot and stretched for blocks and blocks.

It's coming at a time where people stock up on storm supplies leading up to the hurricane and now they're at the point where a lot of those supplies are starting to run out.

And it is coming at a treacherous time because the power is still not on for nearly a million people across the region, they are bracing for this recovery process to take weeks and it is very difficult time, especially when you consider just how hot the temperatures have been here in Louisiana over the last few days and are forecasted to continue being in the days ahead.

So, nearly a million people still without power. There are a little more than half of the gas stations that are open and operational between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that are -- have gas at this point. So, that's also causing a lot of problems because people are depending on that gasoline to power the generators that might be keeping fans and air conditioning systems going at their homes.

So, again, it just kind of captures how difficult the aftermath of this storm is for tens of thousands of people across this region -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you for that.

The dregs of that storm causing record breaking rain in the northeast. We will have more on the record-setting rain later.