Saturday, September 4, 2021

New Jersey. God Have Mercy

No matter your politics, this story is heart-wrenching.

At NYT, "New Jersey’s Stunning Storm Toll Includes Many Who Drowned in Cars":

Malathi Kanche was heading home after dropping her son off at college Wednesday evening when the small S.U.V. she was driving was overwhelmed by floodwaters set off by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

With the vehicle stalled in waist-deep water on Route 22 in Bridgewater, N.J., she and her 15-year-old daughter climbed out. They clung to a tree as the torrent rushed past, according to a close family friend and neighbor, Mansi Mago.

Then the tree gave way, and “the water took her,” said Ms. Mago, recounting what another stranded motorist told her hours later.

A 46-year-old software designer who emigrated from India, Ms. Kanche was one of six people who were still missing two days after Ida caused the deaths of at least 25 people in New Jersey — more fatalities than in any other state — as the monster storm whipped its way onto the Gulf Coast and tore north to New England.

At least a third of the fatalities in New Jersey were people who drowned after being trapped in vehicles in a densely packed state known for its car culture, its tangle of highways, suburban commuter towns and limited public transportation.

Screeching alerts had sounded repeatedly on cellphones late Wednesday, warning people to stay inside, but no travel bans were put in place in New Jersey or New York, where 16 deaths — including 13 in New York City — have been linked to the storm. On Friday, in an acknowledgment of the growing risk of flash flooding as climate change unleashes increasingly intense storms, New York City’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced that the city would increase its use of evacuation orders and travel bans.

In New Jersey, officials have not said whether they would apply new measures to protect the state given the likelihood of severe storms happening more frequently.

As the region faced the daunting task of cleaning and clearing debris, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey and Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York both said that they were expecting large infusions of recovery aid from the federal government. President Biden was expected to soon declare the states a federal disaster area.

Mr. Murphy, speaking from Millburn, whose downtown commercial corridor had been ravaged by the rain, said the state would make $10 million in aid available to small businesses. “If you’ve been crushed and you can prove it, you’re eligible,” Mr. Murphy said.

Early Friday, Mr. Murphy was still warning people to remain off the roads, especially near waterways that had not yet crested.

“Many motorists have been caught by surprise that the depth of the water on a road that they thought they knew — not to mention the swiftness of the current,” Mr. Murphy said.

“You can easily be swept away or trapped,” he said. “And sadly, we have many examples of just that.”

The stories of devastation and death were tempered by the many tales of rescue in New Jersey, where the National Weather Service said three tornadoes also touched down during the storm, leveling homes in South Jersey but killing no one.

In South Plainfield, N.J., a 31-year-old man, Danush Reddy, lost his footing as he was walking alongside a flooded roadway and was swept into a 36-inch-wide sewer pipe, borough officials said. His body was found miles away...

Police found Ms. Kanche's body on Friday.  

Keep reading.