Extreme Weather

Flooding, Sinkholes and Highways Turned Into Canals: Images of Ida Damage

After toppling trees and flooding parts of Louisiana, Ida's remnants damaged a wide swath of the Northeast U.S. Here's a look at some of the damage and how climate change plays a role in the extreme weather we're seeing.

Many parts of the Northeast U.S. saw a "100-year flood" in 2020 when Isaias barreled up the coast after causing widespread damage in the Caribbean. Now in 2021, we're talking about century-old records again.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida damaged Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut Wednesday night, as record-setting rainfall flooded streets and homes and low-hanging clouds spawned some dangerous tornadoes in an area that rarely sees them.

In New York City's Central Park, Ida smashed the record for hourly rainfall set by Henri just last month, according to NBC New York. In the city of Philadelphia, Interstate 676 and 76 were underwater, looking more like canals in Venice, Italy than major highways. In South Jersey, a tornado ripped several homes apart.

The Schuylkill River overflowed Thursday morning, flooding water onto Philadelphia's Vine Street Expressway. The roadway looked more like a river as water reached almost as high as the overpasses. NBC10's Mitch Blacher reports from SkyForce10.

Here's a look at some of the damage Ida caused after it tore through Louisiana.

Rainwater formed a sinkhole in this PA parking lot

Ben Hasty/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Sept. 1: A sinkhole formed in a parking lot in Wyomissing, PA as the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused flooding and tornadoes in the Northeast U.S. (Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

NYC-area highways flooded, stranding cars in water

ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images
Cars were stranded in floodwaters on a highway in Brooklyn, New York, after the remnants of Hurricane Ida damaged the Northeast U.S. (ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)

Floodwaters also reached the New York subway system

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Commuters walk into a flooded 3rd Avenue / 149th Street subway station where service was disrupted due to extremely heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on September 2, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, towns like Houma, LA are still cleaning up

Hurricane Ida toppled trees and power lines and flooded homes in Louisiana before making its way inland. Eric Alvarez reports from Houma and talks to residents who are doing their best to rebuild.

How climate change plays a role in storm strength

Learn how hurricanes are formed, how they are ranked from category 1 through 5, when they are given a name and how climate change is making them worse.

One effect of climate change is that our oceans are absorbing more excess heat - and that increased water temperature can intensify storms.

"The research confirms that we are now in the Atlantic twice as likely to see a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm," NBC Miami Meteorologist Steve MacLaughlin said recently. "Once a system forms and gets going, it is more likely to become a major hurricane."

Those strengthened storms can also move more slowly while dropping more rain.

Can old infrastructure keep up with stronger storms?

We remember the scenes of devastation when New Orleans’ levees were breached during Hurricane Katrina — contributing to the deaths of more than 1,800 people. But many don’t realize that other levee systems, protecting 20 million Americans across the country, are also at risk of failing due to age and the worsening effects of climate change. One of the systems most at risk is on the Ohio River — the country’s second largest after the Mississippi. NBCLX storyteller Chase Cain reports from Kentucky.

More than 20 million Americans are protected by levees, but those levees are getting old - and recently received a D grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

That puts many parts of the U.S. at risk for devastating floods.

"The problem is our need is very large, and it's only been exacerbated by the extreme storm events we're seeing and the number of flood events we're seeing in terms of the Ohio River flooding, brought on by climate change," said Tony Parrott of the Metropolitan Sewer District in Louisville, Kentucky.

The city could face flooding worse than Katrina if its levee system were to fail. And many flood-prone areas including Louisville rely on aging pumping stations that may not be able to keep up with large volumes of water coming more frequently.

"Folks need to understand that climate change is real. Many cities are dealing with rising floodwaters and dealing with aging infrastructure. And we would hope that it would not take a catastrophic event to really raise awareness to folks on how critical these assets are," Parrott said.

Joe Brandt, Chase Cain, Eric Alvarez and Jeremy Berg contributed to this report.