Hurricane Ida hit the southern part of the United States earlier this week, causing heavy rainfall in the country’s northeastern region from Wednesday. The severity of the downpour has left residents of New York City battling floodwaters. The city of Newark, New Jersey, also received the most rain in a single day on record.
Read further to know more.
New York City in a Dangerous Situation
According to local reports, the floodwaters in NYC seemingly caught officials completely by surprise. Meteorologists, who had predicted less rainfall, were also taken aback by the storm’s speed. Scientists are associating the sudden downpour with the consequences of climate change.
“It’s dangerous. We’re seeing a kind of rainfall — we rarely see this kind of speed with which the rain has come,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, who urgently asked city residents to stay indoors (quote from CNN).
As per images coming out of the city, the floodwaters seem to have changed the streets of New York City to rivers. As a result, there has been a death toll of near 44, along with severe property damage. This includes damages to Central Park and the city Subway. Governor of NYC Kathy Hochul said she couldn’t guarantee that those trapped in their automobiles would be rescued, “if it begins floating away like a boat on a river.” (quote from NDTV)
In a statement from The White House on Thursday, President Joe Biden declared an emergency in New York State. He further ordered government aid to help area responders deal with the devastation left by a fading Hurricane Ida.
With estimated rainfall rates of 2.5-3.5 inches per hour, Newark alone received 3.24 inches of rain between 8-9 p.m. Central Park witnessed 3.15 inches of rain between 9-10 p.m. Both are the highest one-hour rainfalls recorded in all time. (tweeted by NWS Eastern)
Possible Causes Behind the Disaster
According to Washington Post, the remnants of tropical cyclones that migrate inland across central and eastern USA are occasionally accompanied by lethal “second acts”. These can occur days after or even hundreds of miles beyond the point of impact. This is usually due to the interaction of severe tropical moisture with mid-latitude weather systems. Fronts and jet stream disturbances supply additional energy, revitalizing tropical leftovers.
The National Weather Service gave flash flood warnings for the region 48 hours ahead of time, predicting three to five inches of rain across the region, with local variabilities. The Weather Service also issued a rare “high risk” warning a day ahead- indicating a ‘most dangerous’ flood threat.
As Ida moved north through New England, the NWS cautioned that the possibility of tornadoes would persist, issuing tornado watches for regions of southern Connecticut, northern New Jersey, and southern New York. On Thursday evening, a tornado hit the renowned vacation resort of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Climate Change and the United States
Climate change has resulted in a greater frequency of heavy rain events in the eastern United States, transforming the environment in which these storms have occurred over many decades. According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, every 1.8 degrees Celsius rise in atmospheric temperature results in a 7% increase in heavy rain. Years of weather-balloon launches have revealed a consistent rise in low-level atmospheric humidity. This implies a reduction in the availability of matter required for causing rainfall.