Biden to visit New York, New Jersey to survey Hurricane Ida's destruction

President Joe Biden speaks about hurricane response efforts amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, Louisiana, on Sept. 3, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks about hurricane response efforts amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, Louisiana, on Sept. 3, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States President Joe Biden will visit New York and New Jersey on Tuesday (Sept 7) to view the destruction wrought by last week's Hurricane Ida, which has left at least 57 dead and four missing in the eastern US.

Mr Biden will travel to New York City's Queens borough and Manville, New Jersey, the White House said on Monday.

He has approved disaster declarations for Louisiana, where Ida hit on Aug 29 with sustained winds of 240kmh, and for New York and New Jersey, which were deluged with rain and intense flooding that killed dozens in the North-east.

Mr Biden's disaster declarations qualify the states for federal assistance for repairs and rebuilding. The Democratic President, facing multiple crises including a chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and a surge in deaths from Covid-19, visited Louisiana on Friday, where the confirmed death toll is 13.

New York has confirmed 17 deaths from Ida, with four in suburban Westchester County and the rest in New York City. In New Jersey, there were at least 27 confirmed storm deaths and four people missing, a governor's spokesman said.

A week after the Ida hit, southern states were still grappling with widespread power outages, water-logged homes and new flash flood threats from slow-moving rain and drenching thunderstorms.

Storms capable of producing 5cm to 8cm of rain "in a pretty short period of time" were drenching New Orleans and parts of Louisiana and Mississippi, and were expected to continue into Monday evening, National Weather Service meteorologist Lara Pagano said.

"Some of that will occur over soil that is saturated by Ida, areas that are already sensitive, with any additional heavy rain problematic and leading to flash flooding," Ms Pagano said.

Ida, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US Gulf Coast, tore a devastating path of destruction and crippled the New Orleans power grid.

On Monday, almost 480,000 customers in Louisiana remained without power, according to the PowerOutage.us website.

The US Coast Guard said it was probing nearly 350 reports of oil spills in and along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Ida.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Ida caused more than US$50 million (S$67 million) in damage in that state.

Record-breaking rainfall of 7.8cm per hour was recorded on Wednesday in New York City's Central Park. Torrents cascaded through businesses, public transportation systems and 1,200 homes.


Residents in New York place their belongings on the curb while cleaning homes damaged by floodwaters from Hurricane Ida on Sept 3. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Ms Hochul said she had directed that US$378 million in previously awarded hazard mitigation funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency be devoted to supporting New York's infrastructure against extreme weather.

Another large storm, Hurricane Larry, churned on Monday about 1,150km off the Northern Leeward Islands.

Predicted to remain out to sea in the Atlantic Ocean, Larry was expected to cause "significant swells" along the US East Coast from midweek until the weekend, Ms Pagano said.

"These swells will likely cause life-threatening surf and rip-conditions so beachgoers are urged to follow the guidance of lifeguards and local officials," Ms Pagano said.