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Remnants of Hurricane Ida Hit New England with Large Amounts of Rain; Flooding in New Jersey and New York Causes Many to Abandon Cars and Become Stranded in Subways; FEMA Coordinating Recovery Efforts in New England after Flooding. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 02, 2021 - 08:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: In New Jersey another person lost his life as now both states are under states of emergency. New York City had the heaviest single hour of rain in the city's history, and the mayor imposed a travel ban that ended at about 5:00 a.m. eastern this morning because the dangerous flood conditions were so bad.

The unrelenting rain has turned streets into raging rapids and flooded subway stations stranding those passengers, and some having to be evacuated. The MTA says 15 to 20 trains were stranded during the deluge of rains. They were able to rescue passengers, though, without any injuries, though service is still not up and running back to where it normally is.

The National Weather Service for the first time ever has declared a flash flood emergency in New York City as one tornado touched down in New Jersey, others in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland, the kind of weather, John, that this place never sees.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No, we just don't see something quite like this. Again, nine deaths now up here, which is more than when hurricane Ida hit Louisiana, at least as far as we know. We may learn more from Louisiana and Mississippi, but nine deaths from what was a really bad rainstorm here tells you just how catastrophic it is.

And I have to say it's not surprising based on what I've seen on my way in here to you, which has been a little bit of an odyssey this morning. Trees down everywhere. Cars smashed from the trees. Hopefully no one left in the cars. And then really, just cars abandoned everywhere. Clearly people were caught in this, didn't expect it last night. They were out on the roads, the parkways, the highways, and couldn't do anything. They got either their cars literally got swept away, or they had to leave them where they were and just abandon them in place.

COLLINS: And it's not even just people's cars. The reason this travel ban was in effect until 5:00 a.m. this morning, that was for non- emergency vehicles because it's been a complete struggle for those emergency responders. We were told by the mayor of Passaic, New Jersey, that a fire truck literally got stuck because they could not get through. And so this has been a massive issue for them. The weather, you can see, is clearing up this morning, but they are still dealing with the aftereffects of trying to rescue people, checking on people. In New Jersey there are several people who are still unaccounted for this morning as people are waking up just shocked by what happened overnight.

BERMAN: And when you hear about, you talk about the 86-year-old woman who was trapped in her basement, you can believe it. When you see the video of these flood waters, these roads that became streams and rivers, just the water sweeping down them, going into basements and houses in ways they just don't normally up here. It has been a very wet summer, a particularly wet month or so here. So the ground is just saturated. You're looking at some just amazing video there of what has been happening as water gets into the houses and people just got trapped even though there were warnings, flood warnings over the last 12 to 20 hours.

COLLINS: But I don't think even officials who were offering those warnings thought it was going to look like this. There are officials who say they are stunned by this. And I think beyond the unfortunately deadly aftereffects that we are seeing, also people are having trouble getting to work today, or they were having trouble getting to work last night. And Shimon Prokupecz is down in the subway station earlier where people have been there since 10:00 p.m., 11:30 p.m., because, of course, that is the main artery to get around in this city, and they had no way to get to work or to get back home. Walking was essentially the only option because overnight there were no taxis or Uber or Lyft drivers that were out and about. They were not supposed to be out according to the New York City mayor.

And so that has been a massive issue I think that is still -- clearly we're still seeing it around the city this morning with several people, including Beverley (ph) Price (ph) I spoke with earlier, have been there since 11:30 p.m.

BERMAN: Let's go to Polo Sandoval who has been covering this and can give us a sense of what he is seeing on the ground. Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, let's give our viewers a sense of where we are standing right now. We are actually on McCarter Highway. You mentioned those aftereffects. Obviously for many people it is a life and death situation, but for so many more, it is also just an inconvenience when it comes down to getting to work. The waters here are certainly receding, but just to give you a sense of how important this artery here is, it's actually the main connector between downtown Newark and Newark's airport here. We're only about two miles away from the airport. And this is the result of eight-and- a-half inches of rain that fell yesterday. Folks abandoned their cars here and this is the headache that's left behind.

In the last couple of hours, we've actually seen people come back out here. These people that were able to safely get to higher ground and basically leave their cars behind, and now coming back to try to find a way to get their cars out of here. Or just look to the gentleman that owns that darker sedan that you see in the distance, and now he has got to find a way to try to get that car home obviously since he said it didn't start. But look, you didn't necessarily have to be driving one of these lower

vehicles to be affected. The big rig that you see right there is actually just blocked in.


The driver telling us a little while ago that he had just picked up his cargo just down the road here yesterday, and then when all of these vehicles began to basically remain in place here, then that's when he got stuck in place. And now he can't move.

So that just gives you a snapshot of what people, not just here in this particular part of New Jersey, but throughout the tristate area are having to deal with. Again, just down the highway here is Newark's airport. The airport tweeting a little while ago that they already know of at least 370 flights that have been canceled. They are already trying to get operations back up there, Kaitlan and John, but it's certainly going to take a while given the drenching downpours that the facilities experienced yesterday. And you don't have to hear it from me. Just look at those pictures of some of those flooded out areas throughout the airport that people had to deal with yesterday.

COLLINS: Yes, if you were planning to fly out for Memorial Day weekend, or Labor Day weekend, you are having some serious issues right now. Polo, thank you.

We do want to go next to Christine Romans who is in in Clifton, New Jersey. Christine, I know you said school was to start there today, and obviously that has been delayed.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's been canceled. And just about -- I've been calling restaurants that are closed. People's basements are flooded. The roads are impassable in some cases. Behind me some of these abandoned cars, people are just now starting to come out and try to get back to their cars and see what the issue is. These cars aren't going anywhere here without a tow truck, that's for sure. So the people, their cars were flooded out. They had to jump out of their cars last night, or in some cases these cars have floated out of driveways.

Where I'm standing right now, you guys, yesterday, it was at least waist high for water here. So this street became a river. And the basements, by the way, the basements here in Passaic County and Essex County, most of these passersby are telling us they haven't seen flooding like this since hurricane Floyd. Devastating flooding that many of these folks are saying is going to be a total gut renovation for these basements, just all this water. Some people have French drains and the like so the water came right out. But this was really a huge water event, three inches an hour at its worst, and that just meant that people couldn't be safe in their cars, and the water here was just an epic, epic record-setting situation.

You saw it in Newark where Polo just was. The baggage claim at Terminal B was flooded. So many streets with acres and acres of cars left behind. This water came up so fast, you guys. I don't think anybody around here where I am who went to bed last night thought it was going to be as bad as this. But all of you know, John, you know this, because you live in the tristate area, but there was so much precipitation in July and August, it was already drenched here. There was just nowhere for this three inches an hour -- three inches of water to go an hour, just no place to go except for the streets and the basements.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, I hope your basement is OK. I know this is really hitting everyone pretty hard in this area. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: Up next, we are now joined by the FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell. Deanne, I know that you have been dealing with this in Louisiana, still dealing with a lot of power outages there, and now the remnants sweeping the northeast. I imagine that you've been up all night. What can you tell us that you're seeing from FEMA's perspective?

DEANNE CRISWELL, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: Good morning, Kaitlan. We are now seeing some damages, and I'm getting reports of damages across the area. I talked with my regional administrators in both region two and region three this morning. Flooding, some individuals that needed to be rescued. We're now going to get more information as the light takes break and we see what the damages are. Ida is just going to continue. She's been leaving her track across the country, and so we're still not out of the woods. We're still seeing some impacts up in the New England area.

BERMAN: How stretched are you at this moment, administrator? Because there are people who surged into Louisiana and the south to deal with Ida when it made landfall there, including, by the way, power companies still trying to get power on. Meanwhile, what's left of Ida causing all this problem up here in the northeast. So how stretched thin are you?

CRISWELL: John, we've got a lot of personnel that are ready to respond. We have surged several teams into Louisiana. But as I visited Mississippi, the impacts there weren't quite as bad as they could have been, and so we've been able to release some personnel from there. Our region two and our region three teams, they're in place to support the states that have been impacted by Ida over the evening. So we still have plenty of room to help support what's going on.

COLLINS: And I know that, of course, we are supposed to hear from President Biden on hurricane Ida today. Has he been briefed, or will he be briefed soon on what happened in New York and in the northeast overnight?


CRISWELL: Yes, I have been briefing the president and his team daily on the impacts that we're seeing. I did have a quick communication with him this morning to give them an update. And as we get more details this morning and understand what the damages are, I will be briefing the president. BERMAN: What's the greatest need at this moment in the northeast?

Obviously, every storm is different. And even one storm, like Ida, can have different types of impacts in different places. Wind was an issue in the south. That's not an issue up here. So what is the problem in the northeast as far as you're concerned?

CRISWELL: Well, right now my regional administrators have been in touch with the state directors about what their immediate needs are. And as far as the current situation with response efforts, lifesaving efforts, they have plenty of resources to conduct the operations that they need to conduct. But we will begin doing damage assessments with them to see what the long-term recovery needs are going to be. There, again, widespread damage that we're seeing from Ida in the northeast, there are going to be some long-term recovery needs that we'll be able to help with as needed.

COLLINS: And was FEMA expecting this level of flooding and damage in the northeast? I know you were obviously tracking when hurricane Ida hit Louisiana very closely. But officials seemed like they were expecting rain, just not this much rain in the northeast overnight.

CRISWELL: We were expecting some significant rain to come from Ida as it traveled across the northeast, but we just couldn't tell where it would end up landing until it got closer to the area. We were thinking that there would be some potential for rain in Tennessee and West Virginia. They didn't seem to get as much. But as it continued to move east, we saw Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York get a big portion of the impacts from Ida. We knew that there was going to be a significant amount of rain. Just where it was going to land was what we needed to wait till it got closer to landfall to see.

BERMAN: Deanne Criswell, as you said, we're not through it yet. It's still up in New England now hitting some remaining areas. Let's hope it doesn't do too much more damage. FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell, we appreciate you being with us on NEW DAY this morning. Thank you.

CRISWELL: Thank you, John. Thank you, Kaitlan.

BERMAN: So, it has been, as we said, a heck of a morning here. People on the streets in Times Square, New York City, people have made their way in. It's a really brutal commute. I think there are some communities around here where they're just figuring out how much damage was done.

COLLINS: Yes. And a lot of people, like we were saying, having issues getting to work. This is a city where you take the subway to get to work. There are a lot of people coming in from out of the city. And we are seeing delays with that today. we are continuing to see delays with the subway, so we'll monitor that.

BERMAN: We're getting new information in about some of the areas that have been hardest hit, where the flooding has been the worst. CNN's special coverage continues right after this.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. This is CNN's special live coverage. I'm John Berman with Kaitlan Collins in Times Square.

And all around the Northeast, millions of people are waking up, if they slept at all, asking, what just happened? I've never seen anything like this. Torrential rains, 3 to 5 inches, sometimes more, causing catastrophic flooding. At least nine people dead now in this area.

The subways barely running in New York City. The roads often impassable in the northeast for people trying to commute anywhere.

And, Kaitlan, first of all, you're doing a terrific job here as I left you high and dry. No pun intended. I couldn't get into the city.

You had some amazing conversations about what we're seeing and how we could see more of it.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Kim Cobb is a climate scientist. We spoke with her earlier. She said this is a conversation being prompted by these storms.

And as we heard, officials were expected rain from the FEMA administrator. They knew where it would hit. They were expecting rain, they weren't expecting this much. They weren't expecting catastrophic flooding where people were stranded on the subway, in train cars, in buses, abandoning their own cars on the side of the road. It looked so eerie in parts of New Jersey this morning where cars were left on the side of the road, it looked like a movie.

And I was talking to Eric Adams, is the mayor, the Democratic nominee for New York City, and he was saying this has prompted a big conversation about climate change because this is an issue, and the concern so many people are saying, we've never seen anything like this before. I think the concern is, when do we see something like this again?

BERMAN: It was the most rainfall that we've had in New York City since like a week-and-a-half ago. They had a night, not this bad, but almost a week-and-a-half ago, which shows you that the storms are getting more intense. That's what people like Professor Kim Cobb will tell you. Yes, we have storms, we'll always have storms.

But they're getting more intense. The thought we could see more of this should be a major concern to people.


BERMAN: Joining us now is the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Ravi Bhalla.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

Obviously, a lot of damage, a lot of problems in New Jersey. Why don't you just give us a sense of what's happening in Hoboken?


Hoboken last night suffered one of the most devastating storms in recent years. This is on par with hurricane Irene. We experienced 6 1/2 inches of rain in an eight-hour period.

I was with the police chief last night at around midnight, 1:00 driving through the streets. I've never seen anything like it. So people were all hands on deck with our emergency operations. Police, fire, people abandoned -- it was quite a challenge last night, but we're slowly entering the recovery phase later on today.

COLLINS: And have the 911 lines just been jammed this morning as people are waking up? What is that like right now?

BHALLA: Yeah, unfortunately, the number of calls for service has been overwhelming.


People with alarms activated, downed wires, abandoned vehicles. I just want to thank our police and fire departments for really having an all-hands-on deck effort, rescuing people from dangerous waters. I would really ask residents to please, please do not travel at this time. We have an emergency order in the city of Hoboken to shelter-in- place. So work from home if you can. Work online. Do not walk outside. Do not walk into flooded intersections. Do not drive your car through flooded intersections. All of those are dangerous conditions that make it more difficult for us as a city to recover as quickly as possible.

BERMAN: Mr. Mayor, you said you did go out to observe what was going on overnight. You've never seen anything like it. Can you tell us what it is you saw?

BHALLA: We saw some parts of Hoboken that typically don't flood that were feet in water. You know, this is nothing less than the impact of climate change occurring, and these types of storm events happening at a more frequent clip and at a more severe impact.

So, you know, this is a call to action for all of us. It really should be a call to action. In Hoboken, we declared a climate emergency. We consider climate change a state of emergency, and we're taking actual measures to address that. But last night the system was simply overwhelmed because of the impact of the storm.

COLLINS: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. We will stay in touch with you throughout the day. John, you can just hear in their voices officials are stumped by what has happened.

BERMAN: Yeah. When you have a mayor who had -- Hoboken has had a few storms over the last ten years, between Irene and Sandy, and now this. But to have the mayor of Hoboken say he's never seen anything like this, it just tells you how bad and in a sense how unexpected it was.

COLLINS: Incredibly unexpected. We will continue to check in with mayors and officials around the area as they are assessing the damage from this catastrophic flooding.

We also have other stunning news that broke overnight, and that is the Supreme Court breaking its silence and now weighing in on that restrictive Texas abortion ban saying they are not going to block a request to block it.

We'll be back with that after this.



COLLINS: I'm Kaitlan Collins live in New York.

Covering some catastrophic damage that happened overnight after there were levels of flooding that had not been seen in quite sometime here in New York City.

Joined by John Berman, of course, now live on the scene after, of course, it took you awhile to get here as well given the levels of traffic and issues of people getting around the northeast now.

BERMAN: Better part of 3 hours for a 45-minute commute. Frankly, people shouldn't be moving anywhere at all right now. The problem was trees down left, right and center, and then cars, dozens of cars just abandoned on the roads that were caught in these catastrophic flash floods.

COLLINS: And we'll get back to this breaking news. We have reporters all over New York and New Jersey.

But there's also other breaking news that happened overnight, and that was just before midnight, the Supreme Court saying it is not going to block an incredibly restrictive abortion law that went into effect in Texas the day before that bans most abortions in the state.

Chief Justice John Roberts is joining the three liberals on the court with his dissent.

For more on this, we are going to be joined by CNN's Ariane De Vogue and CNN's Dana Bash.

Ariane, I want to start with you because you were talking about what a stunning law this was and the chilling effect it could have on other states passing similar laws like this. So, tell us what the Supreme Court said just before midnight.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, we learned a lot last night about this conservative Supreme Court and, frankly, the fragility of Roe v. Wade. This 5-4 order issued at midnight where the courts basically green lighting Texas's six-week abortion ban. It's one of the most strict in the country, of course, by that time, most women don't even know that they're pregnant.

And as you said, Chief Justice John Roberts here cast his vote in dissent with the liberals. And Justice Sonya Sotomayor was furious and she issued this scathing dissent. She said the court's order is stunning, presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.

And what this order really highlights is how this particular law was crafted with the intent to make it really hard to block before it could go into effect. Basically, the majority said, we're not sure whether this is unconstitutional, but we think it can go into effect right now. We don't think that the clinics here showed enough harm. But as I said, that's what makes the liberals furious, and they called out not only the majority, but the Texas legislature, saying that this had been a gambit, a new way at going at Roe v. Wade.

And, of course, the result is today in Texas, it is very difficult to get an abortion at all. And one more thing to point out, keep in mind, this comes less than a year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg would have been really surprised by this, not only for women, but the procedural oddities here. She was replaced by Justice Barrett, Trump's nominee. So that really shows the importance of that changeover.

BERMAN: Dana, there are a couple things I think people need to know here.