As President Joe Biden was set to visit Louisiana Friday to survey Hurricane Ida’s aftermath, more than a thousand miles away cleanup began in the Northeast after the storm’s remnants brought record-breaking rainfall to the area.
Ida came ashore in Louisiana on Sunday tied as the fifth-strongest storm to ever hit the U.S. mainland, then moved north and east dumping torrential rain all week.
Forecasters had warned of potentially dangerous hazardous flooding, but the ferocity of the storm caught the nation's most densely populated metropolitan corridor by surprise.
At least 49 people in five states have died, the toll highest in New Jersey where at least 25 people died in heavy rains that began late Wednesday. A majority drowned after their vehicles were caught in flash floods, some dying in their submerged cars, some getting swept away after exiting into fast-moving water.
Floodwaters and a falling tree also took lives in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. In New York City, 11 people died when they were unable to escape rising water in basement apartments.
Authorities said the work of searching for possible victims and identifying the dead wasn't over. Police went door to door Friday in search of more possible victims and drew up lists of the missing.
Work also continued to haul away ruined cars, clean mud and debris from streets and restore service on bedraggled transportation systems. Parts of New York City's subway system remained offline late Thursday night as workers repaired flood damage.
In Pennsylvania, hundreds of people needed to be rescued from their homes Thursday after the Schuylkill River leaked into Philadelphia, flooding parts of the city in feet of water. Rainfall totals in the Philadelphia area amounted to around 10 inches.
In Delaware, officials said early Friday more than 200 people in Wilmington were rescued amid extensive flooding. A number were taken to the hospital but no serious injuries or deaths were reported.
The National Weather Service said the storm also spawned at least 10 tornadoes, the most serious of which destroyed homes in a New Jersey neighborhood.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Biden is grappling with the persistent threat posed by climate change and the prospect that disaster zone visits may become a more regular feature of the presidency.
"These extreme storms, and the climate crisis, are here," Biden said in a White House speech on Thursday. "We must be better prepared. We need to act."
Ida was the fifth-most powerful storm to strike the U.S. when it hit Louisiana on Sunday with maximum winds of 150 mph, likely causing tens of billions of dollars in flood, wind and other damage, including to the electrical grid.
Power wasn’t expected to be restored to almost all of New Orleans until next Wednesday, which will be 10 days after it was knocked out. And there still is no concrete promise of when the lights will come back on in the parishes east and south of the city, which were battered for hours by winds of 100 mph.
At least 13 deaths have been blamed on the storm in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
On Thursday, Biden called for greater public resolve to confront climate change and said he will further press Congress to pass his nearly $1 trillion infrastructure bill to improve roads, bridges, the electric grid and sewer systems.
The proposal intends to ensure that the vital networks connecting cities and states and the country as a whole can withstand the flooding, whirlwinds and damage caused by increasingly dangerous weather.
On Friday, Biden was scheduled to meet with Louisiana’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, and other local officials to tour a neighborhood hit hard by the storm.
He planned to deliver remarks later that afternoon.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.