The latest on Ida's aftermath

By Melissa Mahtani and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:36 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021
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6:08 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

5 properties where NYC residents died were illegal cellar and basement apartments, city says

From CNN's Mark Morales

Five of the six properties where 10 New York City residents died were illegally converted cellar and basement apartments, according to a statement released by the New York City Department of Buildings.

Those properties were in the Queens and Brooklyn sections of New York City, according to the statement.

“Our team is tirelessly conducting inspections at over a thousand properties across the five boroughs in the aftermath of Wednesday’s storm, and we’ll continue doing everything we can to keep New Yorkers safe in their residences,” the department's commissioner, Melanie La Rocca, said in the statement.

According to the buildings department, an illegal conversion is an alteration of an existing building to create additional apartment units without first obtaining proper permits or approval, many of which do not follow proper code requirements.

Basements and cellars are categorized differently by the buildings department. A “basement” means more than 50% of floor height is above grade. A “cellar” means more than 50% of the floor height is below grade.

The department said that it has received reports of more than 1,100 properties across the city that have reported damage from the storm. The buildings department says inspectors are conducting safety inspections of these locations


5:40 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Biden administration releases more oil from emergency stockpile

From CNN's Matt Egan

The Biden administration announced Friday it will unleash a second batch of crude oil from the nation’s emergency stockpile as Louisiana continues to grapple with widespread gas station outages.

The Energy Department said the release of 300,000 barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is being made to ensure the region impacted by Hurricane Ida is “able to quickly and easily access the fuel they need to support recovery activities.”

The emergency releases are designed to ease pressure on a system buckling after taking a direct hit from Hurricane Ida. Specifically, the federal government is attempting to make sure that as refineries reopen, they get the oil they need to produce gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. 

The latest release from the SPR, an underground series of caverns along the Gulf Coast, will send oil to a Baton Rouge refinery owned by the Placid Refining Company. This is in addition to the 1.5 million barrels of crude the Energy Department said Thursday will get sent to an ExxonMobil refinery.

The emergency steps come as the majority of gas stations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans are without gas, according to outages compiled by GasBuddy. Roughly half of the gas stations in Lafayette similarly don’t have gas.

The Energy Department reiterated that it expects refiners to “prioritize” sending gasoline and other refined products to the region hit by Hurricane Ida. The agency also hinted at potential further action by saying it remains committed to these efforts.

5:40 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Biden calls on insurance companies to fill claims following Ida

From CNN's DJ Judd

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden called on insurance companies to fill claims for those affected by Hurricane Ida, telling those gathered Friday in a suburban neighborhood decimated by the Category 4 storm, “we’re putting as much pressure as we can.”

“Reports suggest that some insurance companies may deny coverage for limited assistance unless the homeowner was under a mandatory evacuation order,” Biden said from LaPlace, Louisiana. “And so, you paid your insurance premiums, you're supposed to get payments for additional living expenses in case of an emergency, while the insurance companies are saying no, no, no, we won't pay you what we owe. Well, we're putting as much pressure as we can.”

“No one fled this killer storm because they were looking for a vacation or road trip — so, folks, they left their home because they left and they felt that they had to flee the risk of death. There's nothing voluntary about that,” Biden added. “I'm calling on private insurance companies, don't hide behind the fine print and technicalities, pay what you owe your customers, cover temporary housing costs and natural disasters, and help those in need. That's what we should all be doing now.”

The President, who toured damage from the storm before speaking, outlined the recovery resources his administration has offered to communities affected by Ida, pledging, “we're going to make sure we have someone coming through here, going door-to-door letting people know what's available to them right now, because they can't connect online, and with the governor, mayors, and members of Congress, community leaders and the folks that are here, we've been working together to deliver millions of meals and liters of water.” 

“I know y'all are frustrated about how long it takes to restore power—it’s dangerous work,“ Biden said, adding that 25,000 linemen have been working in Louisiana to restore power, and two of them have died in the process.

The President said his administration was deploying “more federal resources, including hundreds of generators, and there's more to come, to restore power as fast as we possibly can, faster than anything happened during Katrina.”

5:38 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Biden touts his "Build Back Better" plan, pointing to Hurricane Ida's destruction

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President Biden pointed to the damage caused by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana, saying it was time to pass his "Build Back Better" plan as global warming increases the chances of catastrophic weather events. 

"Hurricane Ida is another reminder that we need to be prepared for the next hurricane and superstorms that are going to come and they're going to come more frequently and more ferociously," warned Biden, speaking from LaPlace, Louisiana.

He then touted his "Build Back Better" plan, which includes his infrastructure proposal, saying it was time to modernize roads, bridges, sewers, drainages, power grids and transition lines "to make sure they are more resilient."

"We have just got to remember, not only do we have to build back, we have to build back better than it was before... so when another superstorm comes, it's not the damage done," he said.

Speaking on Thursday, hours after remnants of Hurricane Ida caused dangerous flash floods and tornadoes across the Northeast and as wildfires burned their way across the western US, Biden also said he planned to press Congress to take further action on his infrastructure proposals to better prepare the nation for future natural disasters and the effects of climate change.

"The past few days of Hurricane Ida and the wildfires in the West and the unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey is yet another reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here," Biden said Thursday.

5:38 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Biden says $100 million has been provided to Louisiana to help with recovery efforts

(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden said he has worked with Gov. John Bel Edwards to ensure that Louisiana residents have received "$500 in their bank accounts once they've contacted us" as part of the ongoing effort to support those recovering from Hurricane Ida.

This amount is part of the $100 million provided to the state in the wake of the storm, Biden said from LaPlace, Louisiana, this afternoon.

"At the governor's request, FEMA's helping with .... transitional sheltering assistance, meaning a place for you to be able to safely sleep at night and be secure and covering your hotel bill you racked up because you couldn't stay at home during a hurricane or because your home is not livable now," Biden said.

Biden directed people in need to visit for more information.

3:56 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Biden says Ida response isn't political, it's about "getting people back up and running"

From CNN's DJ Judd 

(Evan Vucci/AP)
(Evan Vucci/AP)

President Biden delivered brief remarks during a briefing in LaPlace, Louisiana, telling responders on site at St. John Parish's Emergency Operations Center, “This storm has been incredible, not only here, but all up the East Coast.”

“I’ve been spending time, been talking to the governor a lot, but in the meantime, also with governors in my state of Delaware and Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, where there are more deaths than you had here—I hope that doesn’t change, the number of lost lives,” Biden said.

Biden touted his administration’s response to Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm this weekend, but acknowledged there is "a lot more work to do."

“We also know there’s a heck of a lot of more work to do, and that’s why we’re here today, and my message today is I think what we’re all seeing, and I’m getting the same response from my Republican friends here that are in the Congress, is that there’s nothing political about this, it’s just simply about saving lives and getting people back up and running, and we’re in this together, and so we’re not going to leave any community behind, rural, city, coastal, and I promise to have your backs until this gets done,” he said.

Biden said his trip to Louisiana was “to hear directly from you all what specific problems you’ve been dealing with,” acknowledging, “We’re frustrated, I know you gotta be frustrated about the restoration of power, and I understand that.” 

“We’re moving as fast as we can to keep gas moving at the pumps, I’ve authorized going into the strategic petroleum reserve, but I know still there’s work to do in this area, and I’ve instructed my team to ensure that we have all hands on deck to make sure that happens,” he said, while touting up to $100 million in direct assistance to the state.

He also emphasized the need for resilience in reconstruction efforts, pointing to his administration’s infrastructure package and $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

“One of the things that I hope you keep an eye on, I mean everyone keep an eye on, is that, you know, I got kind of, not beat up, but criticized when I was running for office, we gotta build back better,” Biden said.

“Things have changed so drastically in terms of the environment, we’ve already crossed certain thresholds, we can’t build back roads, highways, bridges, anything to what it was before, we gotta build back to what it is now, what’s needed now. And I know the heads of the energy companies understand this really well, we have a significant piece of legislation, both the infrastructure bill and a budget thing, a reconciliation bill, that calls for significant investment in being able to deal with what is about to com,” he continued. 

“And so we have, it seems to me we can save a whole lot of money and a whole lot of pain, pain for our constituents if, when we build back, we build it back in a better way, and it will create—and I realize I’m selling as I’m talking too, but it will create really significant good-paying jobs, not $15 an hour jobs, but jobs at prevailing wage that generate economic growth,” the President added.

3:37 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Ida death toll in New York's Westchester County rises to 5

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Westchester County police are investigating a fifth storm-related fatality, county executive George Latimer said

Latimer, speaking at a news conference, said the man’s body was found at Saxon Woods Park, and authorities believe he may have drowned after getting out of his car which became stranded after being swept away by flood waters. 

Latimer said that most deaths in the county took place among people who were traveling and trying to get home on the night of the storm.  

Earlier on Friday, Latimer said he was in Yonkers with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, surveying damage sustained to homes in the area due to the storm. He also surveyed damage in Mamaroneck Village with Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand as well as the governor. Some streets in the county are still impassable and residents are advised to use detour routes to get around, Latimer said.  

“When we talk about making ourselves hardened against climate change realities, it is a much bigger task – a task too big for the county government to do alone or even the county or the state and the local governments together—we need the presence of the federal government,” Latimer said. 

Latimer said he’s working with state and local leaders in allocating federal funding to residents in need. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is currently in Westchester County surveying damage sustained by Ida to determine eligibility for federal funds. 


2:30 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Climate change was driving force behind devastating storm, Pennsylvania governor says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf attributed the severe weather that spurred tornadoes and flooding in his state to climate change.

"What I've seen in my last seven years are these localized storms, storms that actually in some cases occur outside of flood plains and that cause a lot of damage. You know, it's climate change," Wolf told CNN's Pete Muntean while surveying damage in Fort Washington, which experienced an EF-2 tornado with winds up to 130 mph.

There have been at least 45 deaths in six states — Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia — after the remnants of Ida tore through the Northeast. Four occurred in Pennsylvania.

Storms are getting stronger as the planet gets hotter, scientists say. Hurricanes are made more intense by the warming ocean and are moving more slowly over land.

"We've seen this increasingly around the commonwealth. ... There is no area of Pennsylvania that has been unaffected, at least during my term in office — seven years now — to this kind of devastation, and it's just very sad," Wolf said.

"Unfortunately, we're the weather's unwilling victims," he added.  

Wolf said there needs to be a "robust conversation" on how to combat climate change.

"The more you see this kind of thing — the indiscriminate and intense nature of the storms — I'm not sure how you can sit on the sidelines and say we don't need to do anything. ... We've got to come to grips with the idea that we can't ignore this," he said.


1:57 p.m. ET, September 3, 2021

Gas station worker says people have pulled guns on him while waiting for gasoline

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

A gas station worker in New Orleans said some people have pulled guns on him while waiting in long lines to get gasoline after Hurricane Ida ripped through the area this week.

Abdullah Hummus, the gas station owner's son, sat with a gun himself as he oversaw residents filling up gasoline tanks.

"There have been multiple incidents where people have pulled guns on us for very belligerent reasons — waiting in line too long, thinking we're ripping them off. We're actually one of the only gas stations in the greater New Orleans area that's charging the exact same prices that we've been charging before the hurricane, during the pandemic," Hummus told CNN's Adrienne Broaddus.

He said that right after Hurricane Ida passed, a person tried to shoot through the window to rob the store, but they have bulletproof glass.  

"We've been giving out free ice, free water, multiple days and we're trying our best to help the community in every aspect that we can because that's what New Orleans is about: resilience, helping each other out, mutual relationship. ... We're really trying our best to keep peace and order, but our best is not enough right now," he added.

The station never ran out of gas overall, but only has premium right now. Every few hours, a truck comes with a load of regular gasoline, he said, and police need to escort it off the highway. The gas station's generators have shut off every few hours, and it takes about 30 minutes to restart them.

Watch the interview here: