Cleanup from Hurricane Ida’s remnants will take months, Philadelphia officials said Friday, and they’re still assessing damage from the city’s worst flood in more than a century.
The city has no known deaths from the flooding along the Schuylkill, which was still receding Friday. Emergency management officials said they are still tallying the number of people who were rescued or evacuated from flooded areas. At least five people in the region died.
“Philadelphia has not experienced such extreme flooding in any of our lifetimes,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
Cleaning up the Vine Street Expressway
PennDot crews are continuing to pump water from the Vine Street Expressway — mostly on the west end of the I-676 highway — which effectively transformed into a canal this week after the Schuylkill overflowed. Crews are using eight pumps to remove the water and return it to the river, PennDot spokesperson Brad Rudolph said.
Remaining debris and sediment on the highway will be taken to a job site on I-95 and used for fill, he said.
I-676 could fully reopen as early as Saturday morning, Rudolph said. “We’re trying to hustle to get it open for Made in America festivities,” he said, referring to the concert planned for this weekend on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
But the timeline could change depending on what workers find. “We don’t even really know what’s underneath all that water,” Rudolph said.
Cleaning up Manayunk and East Falls
In addition to the highway, the worst flooding was concentrated in Manayunk and East Falls, city officials said.
The Streets, Water, and Recreation Departments all had crews working to clean up flooded roadways as water receded. Stephen Lorenz, chief highway engineer for the Streets Department, said more than 75 city workers and more than 50 pieces of equipment were involved in cleaning up Main Street in Manayunk and Kelly Drive on Friday. The city has already reopened Forbidden Drive, Ridge Avenue, and Lincoln Drive.
Lorenz said a typical cleanup process to reopen a road includes scraping off debris and mud, clearing inlets so water can drain during future rainstorms, and inspecting the roadway and underground pipes for damage.
Mud and sinkholes
There is a significant amount of mud to clear from the flood. On Kelly Drive, for example, Lorenz said PennDot informed the city of a potential sinkhole, but city workers had not found it as of midday Friday.
“There’s still a lot of mud on Kelly Drive and a lot of debris,” he said. “So as we’re cleaning the roadway, if we come across it we will address it and have it fixed.”
Brian Rademaekers, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Water Department, said crews have been working for seven days to prepare for and now clean up after the storm. The department is currently assessing flood damage at its Belmont water pumping station, he said, but is still able to provide clean drinking water citywide.
How long will cleanup take?
“The recovery process for this is going to take months,” said Adam Thiel, the city’s fire commissioner and director of emergency management.
Thiel said there are buildings with infrastructure issues due to flood waters, and the fire department, police department, and the Department of Licenses and Inspections are working “to get people to a safe place.”
“We expect issues like that will continue as long as we have large volumes of water in certain locations around the city, in particular on the Vine Street Expressway,” Thiel said.
The city is also asking residents to report damage at phila.gov/oem/storm.
“We can see a lot of damage in certain places but we cannot see into people’s homes or basements, so please go online and enter that damage,” Thiel said.
How much will cleanup cost?
While the total cost of the storm damage in Southeastern Pennsylvania has not been determined, state officials said they are confident the state will qualify for federal emergency relief aid.
A state must experience $19 million in damages to public infrastructure in order to qualify, said Randy Padfield, director of Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
“I think this will meet the threshold,” Gov. Tom Wolf said.
Padfield said PEMA expects to have the damage assessment completed by early next week.
Philly suburbs and South Jersey
In Montgomery County, fire responders made 467 water rescues Wednesday night and Thursday, said Val Arkoosh, chair of the county’s board of commissioners. The previous highest number of rescues was 135. The county issued a disaster declaration Friday, which will help residents and business owners get reimbursed for storm-related damage.
Several municipalities in Lower Bucks County were put under a boil water advisory Friday afternoon due to low or no water pressure, including Bristol Township, Falls Township, Middletown Township, and Tullytown Borough.
Across the Delaware, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced $10 million in relief for small businesses from the state Economic Development Authority, funds that will be provided in addition to any aid that may be forthcoming for businesses and homeowners.
“This is immediate, and separate and apart from what the feds end up doing,” Murphy said at a news conference. “If you have been crushed, and you can prove it, you’re eligible.”
In South Jersey, the worst of the damage came from wind, namely a tornado that tore apart homes in Gloucester County. Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties also had some surface and flash flooding, and first responders assisted with a handful of water rescues. No serious injuries were reported, and some roads remained closed Friday.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation is conducting 20 damage assessments of sinkholes, washed-away roadways, and buckled asphalt, Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said.
Staff writers Ellie Rushing and Robert Moran contributed to this article.