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Apocalyptic Scenes Across Northeast as Ida Paralyzes; Eight Dead after Ida Unleashes Massive Flooding across Northeast. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 07:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN NEW DAY: More than three inches of rain fell in just one hour, which is a new record that broke new record from last week. There is a record-breaking flooding in New York -- in New Jersey as well where one death has also been reported. And the storm has spawned tornadoes in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

We have reporters all over New York and New Jersey covering this as people are waking up though, which we note, John, a lot of people in New York didn't go to sleep last night because they were either stranded in subway stations, on trains, in their cars, abandoning those cars on the side of the road. Of course, we've seen a lot of these effects playing out as now people are waking up to this and still experiencing these delays here in New York.

John, what are you seeing?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: I've seen a lot over the last several hours, Kaitlan. Let me tell you. Right now, I'm standing in Manhattan. The good news is I've made it into Manhattan. The bad news is I'm at 147th and Riverside Drive.

Now, behind me, this is a sight you don't think you're going to see in New York City very much, which is a tree down blocking the road. Let me do some high-tech camera work here and try to spin my camera around here just so you can really get a close look. This is a giant tree. These trees line Riverside Drive. And you can see this one came down overnight and just smashed that poor Volkswagen sitting there.

And now this road is all but impassable and actually now if you want to see something interesting, now what's happening is these cars are all going the wrong way on a one-way street trying to work their way around the car. I saw a near accident a minute ago someone going the right way tried to come the other direction. You can bet the tempers are flaring.

This is just amazing. The issue here wasn't the wind last night. It's just that, as you said, so much rain has fallen in this area this summer and especially over the last few weeks that the ground is just inundated. So you have these trees that just can't stand up anymore. The ground is like slush. And they've been falling over. Now, as I said, this is the good news. What you're looking at here is the good news in the sense that, for me, at least, is I made it into Manhattan from where I live about 20 miles north of the city. My way in -- this has been like a two-and-a-half hour odyssey. The way in was nuts, and I think we have some video of that. We were headed south into the city and at one point the roads were just completely stopped at a standstill. Traffic was stopped because all these cars were simply abandoned. You can see there in the dark, all these cars just abandoned. And they were abandoned on -- this is the southward direction of the saw mill for people who know the city. Cars abandoned, about 20 cars or so that I can see abandoned on the south side of the saw mill just left there.

The thing was they were all headed in the north direction. So, again, these cars have been trying to get around maybe some flood waters there. They went to the other side, headed in the wrong direction. They couldn't take it so the drivers left and went away. I didn't see any drivers in the car there, but I saw all these abandoned cars. The tow trucks were just starting to arrive as we pulled out of there.

So, again, I mean, honestly, you're better off not even trying today in New York City. Stay home if you can in the New York or New York area because everywhere you turn scenes behind me like this. It's just -- it's treacherous. It's really -- I've never seen anything quite like this, Kait.

COLLINS: And, John, we should remind people, this is a flash flood emergency, not a watch, not a warning. And the Weather Service says just how rare these are. This is the first time one has ever been declared in New York City. And they say that these are reserved for exceedingly rare situations when extremely heavy rain is leading to a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage. And, John, we do know that several people have already, unfortunately, died, several of them after calling 911 for help because of these rising floodwaters.

BERMAN: Yes. Look, I will tell you that on the way in, I have seen ambulances. I was driving through one neighborhood trying to get through. And I saw a man being taken from his house on a stretcher. I can only imagine how hard this is for people with medical conditions. I can only imagine how hard it is for people who may live on the ground floors or below ground with the flood waters there. And there have been lives lost obviously in the New York City area and New Jersey. And I think as the day goes on, we may learn even more.

COLLINS: Thank you, John. We'll get back to you. Stay safe. Of course, the trees, the ground is extremely soft, so please be careful, of course.

I do want to go now to the governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, who is joining us by phone. Of course, Governor, I imagine you've been up all night. What can you tell us about what the latest after this catastrophic flooding that hit New York and the rest of the northeast?

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY) (voice over): Well, yes. This has been absolutely stunning on a scale. People were just caught off guard and so shocked. [07:05:02]

The residents who thought they would safely be able to go down to their basements or take the trains and all of a sudden just this absolutely unprecedented storm event changed everything. And New York City really has been paralyzed. We've been in communication with the mayor. He's on top of this as are his teams. And we also are concerned about the subway.

Many people's lives, once again, are disrupted this morning when they're not able to get to their regular commute. We have major disruptions on metro north, the Long Island Railroad, some restoration in the subways. So we literally, through the night, had transit workers going through the tracks to make sure that they were safe. There's a lot of flooding. No lives lost there. But we're very concerned about this. It's going to be a massive clean-up. But I will continue to urge people to stay home. Check on your neighbors. Give everybody a call. Make sure they're okay because people are just stunned by what happened last night.

COLLINS: And we knew that there was going to be a lot of rain last night. We just didn't know it was going to be this much. What have you heard from officials as this was breaking overnight given this happened so quickly. So much of this rain, we should remind viewers, fell in just one hour.

HOCHUL (VOICE OVER): When you look at the numbers in Central Park, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, unprecedented is almost an understatement. This is first time ever we've had a flash flood emergency declared. I declared a state of emergency last night. And what that does is allow us to deploy more resources and have more flexibility. So, for example, DOT trucks can undertake activities that they normally would not be able to do.

So, we're engaged, but in terms of what we're hearing on the ground, people are just shocked by this. This is an event that we planned for, we started deploying resources to the region the night before, and in the morning before and we were preparing for this, but once that rain starts coming down, the skies open up and it just was unrelenting. There's nothing that the people can do other than look up with their jaws dropped and say what is happening here. And the pictures that people are taking and posting on social media through the night were just incredible when you think about it.

But, you know, we want people to know we have leadership in place working with our cities but also the counties. Westchester was hard hit, still a lot of people without power there. There's still about 4,000 without power in New York City. Nassau, Suffolk were all hit. And so I'll be surveying the damage today and offering the assistance wherever the county and city leaders need it and we're prepared.

New York State is used to disasters but you just cannot anticipate how much rain fell out of the heavens last night.

COLLINS: And, Governor, do you think people should be staying home from work right now? Because we've heard that's been a big concern is that people are waking up trying to go to work. There's no subway really to get on. There's only about five lines and service and they're experiencing severe delays.

HOCHUL (VOICE OVER): Yes. And the safer place is home right now. And just give us some time to have complete restoration of the trains. We know how to do this. We know what has to be done. The protocols that have to be followed to make sure that it's safe for people to go back into the stations and the tunnels. And we want people to continue monitoring this site. It's And I'll repeat that. It's And check that before you leave your house if you are one of our MTA commuters or take the trains. Make sure you know that the train is running and that it's safe to do so.

But I would suggest unless you can walk closely to work, you do not want to venture out into the streets until everything is cleared because a lot of debris down. Again, we're still restoring power. It's dangerous when there's live power lines out there. So, I would just urge people to sit tight and let us do our work. Let us continue cleaning up and we'll let everybody know when it's all over again. And this is one for the record books. They'll be able to tell their grandchildren that they witnessed something that some have said only happens every thousand years. I haven't been around that long so I don't know for sure but that's what people are describing. It's unprecedented.

COLLINS: Yes. We were told it's a one in a 500-year kind of storm.

Governor, before I let you go, one question, does New York City especially have the infrastructure to deal with a storm like this or are there going to be changes made going forward?

HOCHUL (VOICE OVER): You cannot prevent a scale of something like this but the answer is how you prepare in advance and how you respond. And New York is prepared for this. We have had so many events from Super Storm Sandy to Tropical Storm Irene to countless events. We deal with flooding all the time in the state. And so we have the assets. We deploy them early enough so we stand ready to help in any community that lets the state of New York know. We're also contacting people proactively, saying, tell us where you need our help.

So, we'll always do an after-action report to find out if any of the systems broke down in the process and I want to know that answer in case it did. But in the meantime, there's just some things you can't control and that would be Mother Nature.


COLLINS: Governor Hochul, we know you're very busy, so, thank you for joining us this morning. And we will check back in with you later to see how the assessment of the damage is going and once those subway lines are back up.

Next, I want to go to Shimon Prokupecz who is in the -- down underground in the subway stations right now, assessing what's been going on. Shimon, the last time we checked in with you, there were people there who had been there since 10:00 P.M. last night because they simply had no way of getting home. What are you hearing, and are there any more lines running than there were about an hour ago?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And there are people who have been here since 10:00 are still here. I just met another woman here on the other side of the platform here who has been here since last night.

There is some glimmer of hope here, I have to tell you. Let me show you what's going on as I turn this camera around. This station -- this train has been sitting here since 9:45 last night. It's going to leave now but it's only going one stop, downtown south to 34th Street. And what the MTA is going to do is they're going to turn it around at 34th Street and then bring it back uptown to that side to get all of those people to work.

Many of the people here now are trying to get to work. There are construction workers. Mostly I've seen a lot of construction workers. As you can see here, Kaitlan, let me show you the doors here are closing, but this train is only going one stop. Many of the people who are still here are trying to get to Brooklyn. And the problem is the power is still out in Brooklyn. And that's why this train can't go to Brooklyn. They're still working on those tracks.

So what they're going to do is turn this train around and they're going to pick up all these passengers. And then I don't know how far uptown they're going. but I can tell you on that side, there are people who have been here since last night.

And I can also tell you in about the last 30 minutes, so let me show you this again, in the last 30 minutes, someone from the MTA finally came down here and started talking to people and explaining them how they can get home, other lines because some of the other lines are working, the A train. The C train was not. But A train is going downtown and it is also going up town. So, finally, after however many hours, someone is finally explaining to people how they can maneuver around the subway.

It's been really tough for some people here because they have literally spent the night here, sleeping on benches. And you can see it in their faces how tired they are. A lot of them coming off work shifts, trying to get home and they've been here since 10:00 last night, couldn't get home because they just can't get in cabs, couldn't afford Ubers, couldn't afford cabs. So they stayed here all night hoping that somehow the subways will start working and they would be able to get home. Many of them didn't want to leave to get water, to get food because they were so afraid they were going to miss the subway.

So, hopefully, now maybe people can start moving around. They've been running some test trains as well hopefully for these people who have been out here all night, hopefully, this means they can get home, Kaitlan. COLLINS: Yes, Shimon. The acting MTA chair said they were hoping to get service somewhat like normal by the end of the day. We'll check in with you to see how that is going.

I do want to bring in Beverly Pryce. She is a nurse who has been essentially stranded from being able to get home after this flooding happened last night. So, Beverly, what happened? You were leaving your house to go to work last night when this flooding got started.

BEVERLY PRYCE, STUCK OVERNIGHT IN SUBWAY: Yes, when the flooding started, yes.

COLLINS: And were you in an Uber? Were you trying to take the subway?

PRYCE: I was in the Uber at White Stone -- took me to White Stone Bridge to connect to a bus. And then there were no buses running because of the water. So, the bus wasn't going over the bridge but the bus was coming back to Main Street. I jump on the bus and get off at Main Street to go to Jamaica Avenue and then they say no bus going to Jamaica. There's seven feet of water in the road.

COLLINS: Seven feet of water in the road?

PRYCE: Yes, in the road. So there were no buses going.

COLLINS: And we know a lot of these buses were stranded. So, where were you? Were you left at a bus station?

PRYCE: I was left at the bus station. And then I have someone at the 7 train run in. They say, yes, but it's delayed. I went down to get the 7 train and I was on the 7 train for 20 minutes, another 20 minutes, because I'm (INAUDIBLE) right here.

COLLINS: And then you got on the 7 train, came over here to where we are on 42nd street.

PRYCE: Yes, and that's -- yes, I was in the subway (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: And were there a lot of people on the train?

PRYCE: A lot of people down there, a lot of people stranded down there, yes.

COLLINS: And how long have you been down there?

PRYCE: Oh my God, I've been down there since 11:30 something?

COLLINS: Since 11:30 last night?


COLLINS: Because there's no way for you to get home to where you live, which is in Queens or the Bronx?

PRYCE: I live in Queens. COLLINS: In Queens. So there's just no way for you to get home essentially because Ubers were delayed, taxis, you couldn't really find, there are no buses.


PRYCE: No buses running, no trains running.

COLLINS: And so what was it like being down there? Were there a lot of other people who were also stranded that were down underground in the subway station with you?

PRYCE: Yes, there's a lot of people, a lot of people coming up. A lot of people don't know what to do because number 1 train not going nowhere because service is suspended.

COLLINS: How long have you lived in New York?

PRYCE: 30 years.

COLLINS: Have you ever seen anything like this?

PRYCE: I've ever seen nothing like this.

COLLINS: And you were aware of the weather before you went to work last night. Did you expect it to be this severe?

PRYCE: I didn't expect it to be this severe because I would not leave my house, yes.

COLLINS: And so how do you plan to get home? What is your plan over the next several hours if those subway stations are not restored until the end of the day?

PRYCE: Well, I don't know. Someone told me that the A train is running. I'm trying to get a train or a bus or something. But right now, I have to go to Queens to Brooklyn to take care of my dad. He's 93 years old.

COLLINS: Your dad is in Brooklyn?


COLLINS: And where was he during the storms last night? Because I know Brooklyn got a lot of this flooding.

PRYCE: He was in his apartment. Someone was there with him.

COLLINS: And is he on higher ground, because a lot of people in lower areas --


COLLINS: And have you checked in with him today?

PRYCE: I checked in with my sister. So, they're okay. COLLINS: Well, thank you, Beverly, for joining us. We hope that these subway trains start running again soon so you can get home safely and get back to work.

PRYCE: Okay, thank you very much.

COLLINS: Thank you, Beverly.

PRYCE: Okay.

COLLINS: We're going to continue our coverage here in New York. Of course, we are seeing a lot of people still unable to get home, as Beverly was just saying. She was trying to go to work last night. She had been stranded in a subway station since 11:30 P.M. We will continue this coverage right after this.



COLLINS: And welcome back to CNN's live coverage. We are in New York where, of course, the northeast has seen a lot of flooding overnight as the remnants of Hurricane Ida have swept the area. There are currently states of emergencies under way in New York and in New Jersey.

So, right now, I want to go to the mayor of Passaic, New Jersey, Hector Lora, where, overnight, there has been a substantial amount of flooding, at least one person has been killed, we were told, after being trapped in the floodwaters. Mayor, what can you tell us about what you're seeing?

MAYOR HECTOR LORA, PASSAIC, NEW JERSEY: Well, we're now dealing with the aftermath of the storm. There are still areas in the city of Passaic that are flooded, where we're trying to block off the roads and divert all traffic to alternate routes.

As you mentioned last night, our city had a tragic loss of life as a result of this storm. An individual was stuck on a street where the levels of water rose over six feet. Through the heroic efforts of firefighters, police and emergency responders, two family members were able to be rescued out of the vehicle. Unfortunately, firefighters began to be pulled under the vehicle and they had to stop their efforts and we lost a life last night, a 70-year-old individual.

We also have gotten reports of two young adults and they have been swept into the river. This morning, our firefighters will be going into the river to attempt to locate the bodies. We continue to try to ascertain whether individuals who are left their vehicles abandoned made it home or in hospitals. Obviously, on Monday, we took all of the pragmatic steps necessary to prepare for the storm, like cleaning storm drains, but no one could predict the impact that this storm would have with such intense rain all coming down so quickly. It truly devastated areas around our state and specifically here in the city of Passaic, and specifically here in the city of Passaic. But we continue. But I must stress that the efforts and commitment of our police, fire and emergency responders resulted in countless lives being rescued and saved.

COLLINS: And, Mayor, how many people are missing right now? Are there people who are unaccounted for?

LORA: We presently have two individuals who are reported they may have been swept in the river. We have 60 individuals that we evacuated from our downtown area because of the potential of the river, which crested last night and came over the banks. And we were concerned with the high tide at 5:00 A.M. But, currently, there are two missing persons, reports were filed, 60 individuals that were evacuated.

And as we continue to assess the damage and going to properties that we saw that were flooded, we will be tallying up throughout the day and trying to make sure that every individual is accounted for. Obviously, vehicles can be repaired. Property can be replaced but loss of life cannot be returned and our priority in the city is to ensure that we can account for every individual that we possibly can. This is why it's so important for individuals when they hear reports to stay home and stay off the roads during storms that they please listen because nothing can be so important, more important than your life.

COLLINS: And that's what's so unfortunate is that so many people were out on the road as this flooding has happened, because it happened much quicker than anyone expected. And did you say there was six feet of water in your downtown area?

LORA: There were areas all around our city, in the area where we unfortunately experienced a loss of life. I must say that our prayers and support go out to the family of this individual. That area had over six feet of water. The fire department and police had to call off efforts because our fire truck literally got stuck in the road.


We have ambulances stuck on the road. There were areas in our city where we saw up to eight feet of water because of the intensity and just the areas in our flood zone, which normally get flooded during storms. But yesterday's storm, again, no one could predict the impact. No one could predict the impact of that storm in our city.

COLLINS: Fire trucks getting stuck on the road. That really does give you an idea of just how much this caught people off guard. Mayor Hector Lora, thank you for joining us in Passaic, New Jersey. We will come back and check with you. And, of course, we are hoping and praying that those two people who were unaccounted for are found soon. Thank you for joining us.

Now, I want to go to CNN's Christine Romans, who is also in New Jersey. Christine, last time we checked in with, you we were seeing a lot of abandoned cars after people have been driving. And like the mayor is saying there, they just got caught up in these floods. What are you seeing right now? CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And we've talked to some of those owners who are coming back to check on their cars this morning and they're totaled in many cases. They've been underwater. But the cars behind me were completely submerged last night.

Where I'm standing right now, Kaitlan, the water was up to my waist here where I'm standing. So there was water. These streets were rivers, essentially. And people either had to abandon their cars and in some cases the cars were floating from where they had left them in any case.

Clifton, New Jersey, is where I am, and the schools here were supposed to start today for the first day of school. That has been canceled. Over in Newark, I mean, you can just see when you look at these new pictures we have from downtown Newark, you can just see how much water was standing and you can see how many people had to abandon their cars there as well.

And in Newark at the airport, Terminal B, the baggage claim, these pictures were viral as well, the baggage claim flooding there. So if you are flying today, be careful. There are going to be some more cancelations. We're told the parking lots are open now at Newark Airport. But, again, you might want to check ahead of time. Because what happened here in New Jersey all over the northeast last night was record-setting.

We have just never seen this much water so quickly, three inches an hour at one point here where I am right now, three inches an hour. And it was already a very wet July, July and August. So there was just no place for all of this water to go so quickly. There were also power outages, there were downed trees, there were tornado warnings last night. So this was a really one-of-a-kind kind of storm.

And, Kaitlan, it's remarkable, really, the path this storm took, 1,400 miles, seven states. This was the dregs, really of Ida, but, boy, what just a devastating, treacherous path she took here when she came here. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, Christine. We keep saying the remnants of Ida. They were very strong remnants clearly now that they have swamped the New York area. And, unfortunately, it has also turned deadly. Thank you, Christine. We will check back with you.

We have more on the breaking news here in New York after many people have been left stranded overnight in subway stations, bus stations, unable to get back to their homes or to their jobs after this flooding caught a lot of people off guard. We have more on that coming up.

And also more on the breaking news out of the Supreme Court after they have now broken their silence on that restrictive Texas abortion ban. That's next.