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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ida Remnants Trigger Historic Flooding Across Northeast; Supreme Court Denies Request To Stop Texas Abortion Law; Residents In Southeast Louisiana Struggle To Get Food, Water, Gas. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 05:30   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to EARLY START. It is -- good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. It is Thursday, September second. I'm Christine Romans in Clifton, New Jersey where the streets behind me turned into rivers, cars drifted away, basements flooded. A record- breaking rain event from Hurricane Ida here in the northeast.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A very wet Thursday, indeed. I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 31 minutes past the hour here in New York.

And this is not a river or a lake you're about to see. It is Queens, New York. States of emergency declared in New York and New Jersey overnight as life-threatening flooding from what remains of Hurricane Ida kills at least seven people in New York and devastates communities throughout the northeast.

Inside Newark airport, water rushed into baggage facilities.


Flooded streets in New York City.


JARRETT: Just look at that. As the streets flooded across New York City overnight, cars stranded, ambulances trying to rescue people were no match for the floodwaters. Water poured into the subways across New York City, effectively shutting down service.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We can take all the precautions in advance and we did deploy our assets to be on the ground in anticipation, but Mother Nature will do whatever she wants and she is really angry tonight. We have to be prepared for cleanup tomorrow. I'll be on-site in the morning making sure that this is going well. But right now we're in a very dire situation.


JARRETT: Approximately 240,000 customers are without power across the northeast.

Some rivers may stay well above flood stage for at least several days as the stormwater flows into streams and rivers -- Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, this has just been something else here. These cars behind me just floated here, probably from someone's driveway, or it could be someone who was trying to drive through this and found out that this was a river, not a road, last night and left their cars there.

Pedram Javaheri has been covering all this from -- for us. And, Pedram -- I mean, the amount of water that came so quickly -- these basements here where I am filled up. I mean, feet of water in some cases gushing through windows and any kind of crease. This has already been a very soggy summer in the northeast and then this.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know, when you look at the numbers of what came down across this region -- and, of course, you're talking about one of the most densely populated corners of the U.S. -- the urban environment -- the concrete jungle across this region.

We know asphalt and concrete -- they create about a 50-plus percent runoff. So essentially, more than half of what falls out of the sky becomes runoff when it comes down in these major cities. And then you bring down a historic amount of rainfall and that's what leads to what's happening here as far as what is left of Ida.

Just a couple more hours before it's all said and done here and the rains that are in store, just light to moderate showers. I think the bulk of it is just about done here as we watch portions of Rhode Island, Connecticut, on into Massachusetts kind of rain itself out as the system pushes offshore.

This red polygon -- that's a tornado watch until 7:00 across this region of Cape Cod. So, still, enough rotation in the atmosphere to spawn a few tornadoes.


But we ran the numbers here at CNN weather, kind of looking at the seven-plus inches that came down around the five boroughs of New York City. That number, when you kind of even out and average out the city's area, equates to 35 billion gallons of water falling out of the sky in about a five-hour period across New York City. That's about 50,000 Olympic-size pools essentially being released over the city and that's why you're seeing the images that you are across this area.

And we still have at least 40 million Americans underneath flood alerts, meaning in some of these spots flooding is imminent or occurring. Those are indicated in red where the flood warnings are in place.

But the rainfall amounts, as impressive as you will see them for any location in the world. And again, put it in an urban environment and it becomes that much more problematic. Six, seven, eight inches of rainfall in a matter of three to five hours.

In fact, in Newark, the heaviest rain event in its recorded history -- the wettest single day on record. Almost 8 1/2 inches came down on Wednesday -- Wednesday night. That is a 1,000-year recurrence interval, meaning a one in 1,000 chance for this to occur.

It's an incredibly rare event that took place in the last few hours. And even for New York City, three-plus inches coming down between 8:51 and 9:51 last night. That also has a 200-year recurrence interval -- one in 200 chance of occurring. An extremely rare weather event causing the destruction we are seeing.

ROMANS: Yes, unbelievable. All right, thank you so much for that, Pedram.

And it's still ongoing here, by the way. The mayor of Trenton is ordering evacuations for some parts of that city by 8:00 a.m. because you have rising tides and rising water levels here that are still a danger for so many people. So this is still a water event that is ongoing.

And CNN spoke to one woman who said this was like living through a monsoon -- listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was out with a friend and we were just in -- got stuck in the middle of the storm and, like, around the Clifton area. And I -- we drove around for like over an hour trying to get anywhere towards my house in Bloomfield.

And then, I got pictures of my house from my family. It's completely flooded -- the entire basement. The cars are filled up with water to the top. Everything is like completely destroyed in the first floor of my house. It's really crazy.


ROMANS: All right, Polo Sandoval is for us in Newark. And, Polo, people who live in this area know that this was already a very wet summer. So you get all this rain -- record-setting --


ROMANS: -- amounts of rain and there's no place for it to go. The street behind me was a river. Cars floating around.

What are you seeing there in Newark?

SANDOVAL: Well, Christine, in this part of Newark we've actually made it to dry ground here. But just a couple of miles from where we are there's still some water on the roadway.

Now, in terms of the water that has receded, that's actually led to another different kind of hazard, which are just dozens and dozens of abandoned vehicles. I actually saw them on the way in here from New York as we made our way to New Jersey -- especially, close to the airport -- close to Newark where you see many of these abandoned vehicles or drivers, safe to assume, were stranded in some of those floodwaters.

And also safe to assume that obviously, nobody in those cars now but now, many of those folks who were perhaps going to try to get to work this morning are facing that as a -- as an obstacle here.

And look, even if you're flying -- if you are flying into Newark yesterday, you likely experienced complications as well. Just look at these incredible images that have come in showing the baggage area there at Newark. You can see some flooding there disrupting operations.

However, we did hear from airport officials just before midnight. They did say that limited flight operations have resumed. But nonetheless, for folks who are expected to fly out from what is usually a very busy airport, especially this morning, it's important to reach out to your airlines and make contact with them to make sure that those are still going on as scheduled.

Because for now, that state of emergency, Laura -- it is in place not only here in Newark but throughout the entire state of New Jersey. A lot of people really being asked if you don't have to head into work this morning, work from home. We're all used to that by now, right?

JARRETT: Yes, exactly. Stay put if you can, except for you, Polo. You are working very hard. Thank you for being there for us.

And at least seven people have died in New York, trapped by floods and building collapses. The mayor imposed a travel ban overnight due to dangerous flooding conditions. Emergency officials telling people just stay inside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're out rescuing people in the street out of their cars. We've had a few people that we've had to rescue out of basements. You know, unfortunately, this came in so fast that people -- we try to tell people ahead of time don't drive into flooded areas, but I believe this just happened so quickly that people really didn't anticipate it and got stuck.


JARRETT: The travel ban just expired and non-emergency personnel are still being urged to stay off the roads.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz was the streets of New York when conditions rapidly deteriorated overnight. Shimon is now live in Times Square. Shimon, I know it's drier right now, or at least it was when I was coming in this morning. What are you seeing all around you?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, it is drier. But I've spent most of the night underground in the subway here. And I'm going to show you what's going on.


Subway service is still, for the most part, suspended. At the 42nd Street-Times Square station on the 7 line, there are still hundreds of people here waiting to get home.

I'm going to show you what's going on here. So, as you can see -- I mean, it's pretty crowded for --


PROKUPECZ: -- 5:40 a.m. All these people -- some of these people have been out here since 10:00 p.m. last night.

This gentleman sitting here and this woman here -- I was talking to them. They live in Brooklyn. They have been here since 10:00, Laura, last night, sitting here waiting. He was just leaving work. He was -- he came and wanted to get home. He has to get back to work around 2:00.

But this is all over. This train has been here for hours, just sitting here because there are flooding conditions up ahead. And as you go through the entire subway stop here -- you know, I've seen some of these people out here all night. You have people sleeping on the floors here. They're on the benches. It's just heartbreaking to see this.

Many people just relying on the subway system here to get home. Many of these people working all day -- many of them restaurant workers -- some of those frontline workers we've talked so much about during the pandemic. This is how they get around and now they have been stuck here all night, sleeping.

I spoke to another woman earlier who said she was hungry. A lot of them are afraid to leave because they feel if they leave they may miss the train -- so they don't leave and they just sit here. It's just -- it's heartbreaking to see this.

For many of these people, this is the way they get home. This is what they can afford. And now they're just stuck here waiting.

And there's really no word on when this subway line is going to return to service. The MTA is saying they have to pump up -- pump out a lot of the water. There is some subway service that is running. It's limited.

But obviously, the full transit system is nowhere near back to normal. And -- I mean, I don't know what's going to happen here for the rest of the day but there's a very good chance that a lot of these people could be here for many, many more hours, Laura.

JARRETT: Shimon, that's just incredible. I'm so glad that you have cell phone service down there.

Are you getting any updates from an overhead speaker? I mean, are you -- are you getting any information at all, or are you guys just literally just been sitting there, essentially with no news?

PROKUPECZ: No, there's no news. There is -- the overhead -- there's an overhead announcement, then there's the digital boards here. They'll tell you -- basically, what we've been hearing all night is that there's limited subway service.

It's really -- what's really interesting to watch is there are -- in the last 30 minutes, more and more people pouring into this station, coming from other subway lines here at Times Square. It's such a hub with so many different train lines, so people come here to transfer to other trains.

And a lot of people don't know what's been going on there so they're running. They see the train and they think oh, the train's here -- let me run. And they run and they just sit here.

So, no -- no announcements. I have not seen any MTA personnel here talking to anyone, describing to them.

And a lot of these people -- I mean, I've seen them here all night just laying, as you can see. This is across on the other side. That's the uptown side. These people have just been here all night laying --


PROKUPECZ: -- sleeping. I mean, it's really incredible to see. It's just heartbreaking because they just have nowhere to go right now. And it's a little warm down here.

I asked the one gentleman who has been here since 10:00 p.m. if he wanted anything. If he needed any water. Again -- but he just doesn't want to leave because he's like I need to get on my train. And then he tells me that he has to be back at work at 2:00.


PROKUPECZ: So I don't know, but it's really just -- yes, it's heart- wrenching here. I hope these people can get home at some point but I don't know. I don't -- it's just very unclear what's going to happen at this point.

JARRETT: Oh, just trying to get to work and trying to get home safely.


JARRETT: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much for being there for us. I'm sure we'll come back to you throughout the morning.

PROKUPECZ: You got it.

JARRETT: All right, everyone, we'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


JARRETT: Breaking overnight, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law banning nearly all abortions. The five-four decision came down almost 24 hours after the law took effect in Texas with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's three liberal justices in dissent.

Now, this law bans abortions as soon as -- as early as six weeks, I should say, and allows private citizens to sue anyone who assists in the procedures.

ROMANS: Our other top story this morning, record-breaking rain in the northeast. The dregs of Ida causing death and destruction here. Eight people dead in New York and New Jersey in a one-of-a-kind event here -- an event that essentially has spanned 1,400 miles and seven states.

There are more fatalities, by the way, in New York because of Hurricane Ida now than in Louisiana.

Pedram Javaheri has more on the one-of-a-kind nature of this storm -- Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Yes, from onset here, we saw this storm system make landfall and, of course, it stayed as a category four for the better part of five hours as it moved into southern Louisiana. And, of course, it traverses right over the Tennessee Valley, an area that had 20 inches of rainfall just a couple of weeks ago. It brings significant rains across that region and continues -- or leaves tens of millions of people here with a significant impact as well around the northeast.

So the coverage -- the incredible nature of this really plays out to be something that we've really never seen. I wouldn't be surprised if plenty of studies are done on this particular storm and what it was able to do from coast to coast -- from the south all the way towards the north.

But we know when you look at pre-industrial times, temperatures have risen on our planet by about one degree Celsius. And studies show once that happens, water vapor -- moisture content of the atmosphere increases by about seven percent.

So, as a meteorologist, when I see our planet is warming I know its ability to retain moisture is directly going to be related to what is happening here.

In fact, plenty of studies have been done on the increased nature of heavy rain events. And guess what corner of the U.S. has the highest likelihood to see heavy rain events. Of course, we saw one about 12 days ago with Henri, and here we go. It's 70-plus percent right there around the northeast -- has seen the highest increase there in heavy rain events.


And as our planet warms, guess where all that energy is stored. It's stored in our oceans. Ninety percent of that heat is stored as heat energy in the oceans. That, of course, fuels these storms.

And you can look at this and there is a remarkable persistence with the number of storms we see every single year on our planet. Whether it be typhoons, hurricanes, or tropical cyclones, about 80 occur every single year on our planet. That number hasn't varied much year-over- year but the number of category fours and category fives have about 30 percent for every degree increase there.

So these are all things to consider, Laura, when it comes to the significant amount of rainfall we've seen in these storms, the incredible nature and the potency they have. All of it relates to what's happening in our oceans and also in our atmosphere --


JAVAHERI: -- with the temperatures rising.

JARRETT: Yes, this is -- this is climate change in action, folks.

OK, Pedram. Thank you so much.

More than 900,000 power customers in Louisiana still without power and could be for weeks.

Some of the worst damage from Ida is in Grand Isle, Louisiana's last inhabited barrier island. The mayor says it's been decimated.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need -- we need some serious help because our water line comes through the marsh and our electricity comes through the marsh, and it's all destroyed. We need to get our water back so we can at least start living a little better than -- you know, we've got generators coming in. And it's just -- it's just like a bomb went off.


JARRETT: As if the lack of electricity and sweltering heat weren't enough, many areas don't have fully operational sewage systems. You can imagine what that's like.

CNN's Brian Todd is on the -- in the ground -- on the ground in New Orleans.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): People in Louisiana are still struggling just to get the basics. Many people told us they're still not sure where they're going to get food and water in the coming days.

And gas, of course, remains a big crisis. Take a look here. This is the Discount Zone gas station in Metairie, Louisiana. Look at this line of motorists. This line extends well beyond that bridge there. Some motorists telling us they've been waiting eight and nine hours at a time and those are just the people in cars.

Take a look over here. There are several people in line on foot, and this line was much longer earlier. Some people waiting on foot to fill their gas cans with gas. Some of them told us they have been waiting three to four hours to get gas.

Here is what a couple of those people had to say.

TODD (on camera): How desperate are you for gas?

DASHA RAYMOND, GAS CUSTOMER IN METAIRIE, LOUISIANA: ASAP -- I need it now because I'm trying to get out of town. So I'm -- really and truly, I can't do nothing about this.

TODD (on camera): What do you need it for?

LAMOUR DIMES, GAS CUSTOMER IN METAIRIE, LOUISIANA: My car, to get back -- to get out of town -- yes.

TODD (on camera): Your house -- you can't live in your house?

DIMES: Well, they say electric is coming back on in the east, but I don't know how -- where at and what areas. So I'm about to go check the house and then after that, I'm gone.

TODD (on camera): And the owner of this station tells us he has had to ration gas, limiting purchases to $30.00 per person at a time. He says he's going to probably have to cut off these pumps pretty soon because the motor powering the pumps could get fried. So that's just an illustration of this crisis.

Governor John Bel Edwards says the fuel crisis here in Louisiana is just so slow to recover. He says several refineries remain down as of Wednesday, and the state is working with federal partners and local businesses to identify fuel that can be brought in from outside of Louisiana -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Brian Todd, thank you so much.

Well, the weather and wind created a mess at the U.S. Open last night. Tennis fans forced to dodge this rogue beer cart hurdling toward them. And play was suspended when even a closed roof couldn't keep the elements from pouring in.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


You know, two of the stadiums in Flushing Meadows there -- they have a retractable roof -- Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe -- but the stadiums -- they're not completely enclosed. They have openings on the sides at the top. So when you get a big storm with sideways ran, like New York got last night, water can get in. and that's what happened at Louis Armstrong.

Fans were putting on ponchos and opening up umbrellas. They had blowers brought out multiple times onto the court to try to dry it out. They had to halt play between Kevin Anderson and Diego Schwartzman before eventually moving it over to Arthur Ashe Stadium, which was in a little bit better shape.

Fans, though, certainly had a tough time trying to leave Flushing Meadows. Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn was in the crowd and she tweeted "Crazy rain and flooding in NYC. Stuck at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Hope everyone is staying safe."

The 7 train, which many fans use to get to the tennis center, was out of service for much of the storm before coming back online earlier this morning in a limited capacity.

All right, the Saints, meanwhile, still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Ida. They announced yesterday they will open their season against the Packers in Jacksonville a week from Sunday. The team saying that playing the game at the Superdome in New Orleans is not an option as much of the city is still without power.

The Saints evacuated to the Dallas area before the storm hit and don't plan to return to New Orleans for at least a few weeks. So, Laura, Saints fans are going to have to wait a while before they see home football there at the Superdome.


JARRETT: All right, Andy. Thanks so much -- appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: And, Christine, obviously, look at those fans at Arthur Ashe, but this isn't just inconvenient for folks --


JARRETT: -- it is dangerous. People stuck in their homes, even still at this hour.


JARRETT: You saw that report from Shimon. People stuck down there since 10:00 p.m. last night.

ROMANS: Yes. And where I am here in New Jersey people are just starting to get out and take to the streets and try to get their bearings here, having to drive around washed away cars and the like.

So, still a dangerous situation. In some counties, they are saying please don't go out this morning. You still have rescue personnel trying to get a sense of the situation after this epic rain.

That's it for us on EARLY START. "NEW DAY" is next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, September second.

I'm Kaitlan Collins live in Times Square. John Berman is in Westchester County assessing the damage because we are starting with breaking news this morning after there were torrential rains and catastrophic flooding that hit the northeast, causing a lot of damage overnight and stranding people in their cars, causing people to be evacuated from the subway here in New York.

And at least eight people have died in New York.