A 70-year-old man has died after his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters when Tropical Storm Ida slammed into the Northeast on Wednesday.
Firefighters in scuba gear attempted to reach trapped drivers after the water level reached up to six feet in Passaic, New Jersey amid dangerous flash floods.
“His family was rescued, they were all in the same car. Unfortunately, the car was overtaken by the waters, and the firefighters who were being dragged down under the vehicle were unable to get him out,” Passaic Mayor Hector Lora told CBS2.
The body of the man, who has not been identified, was found in the water later that night. His 66-year-old wife and son, 25, survived the ordeal.
Mayor Lora said that two people are still missing and rescue efforts are ongoing in the floodwaters in Clifton.
The torrential rainfall began around 6pm, breaking the banks of the Passaic River, around 17 miles northwest of New York City.
Drivers were forced to abandon vehicles which quickly became overwhelmed by the rising water. Bergen and Essex counties in northern New Jersey also saw up to ten inches of rain.
The death toll in the region has risen to at least 14 people including a two-year-old boy.
More than 200,000 homes in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were left without power following the extreme conditions.
Governors of both New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency in the wake of the disaster.
A 40mph tornado swept through Mullica Hill, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, damaging around 100 homes, the National Weather Service reported.
Newark Liberty International Airport temporarily canceled flights and some areas of the airport including the baggage claim have been closed due to flooding.
In New York City, Central Park had 3.15 inches of rain in one hour, breaking the previous record of 1.94 inches on 21 August.
Ida is now expected to bring rains to Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for those areas.
Several factors linked to the climate crisis are helping to fuel more powerful, destructive storms like Ida, scientists say.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science, found that storms with sustained higher wind speeds – in the Category 3-5 range – have likely increased in the past 40 years.
And as the planet heats up more moisture is held in the atmosphere, which means that storms bring the potential of a lot more rainfall.