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Hurricane Ida’s Devastation: A Warning to New Jersey

By: Natalie Francesco

Before being classified as Hurricane Ida, meteorologists wrongfully identified the erratic weather activity as a cluster of thunderstorms traveling west. While the storm entered Cuba, meteorologists noticed increasing wind speeds and recognized the weather as a Category 2 Hurricane; however, this label would quickly change to a Category-4. Due to Ida’s location over the Atlantic, humidity was able to remain inside the storm’s current- creating the perfect concoction for a tropical storm. By the time meteorologists realized these unique circumstances, Ida was heading towards Louisiana with a dangerous demeanor rivaling Hurricane Katrina.

The unpredicted risk of Hurricane Ida caused Americans in the northeast to be severely unprepared. Nationwide, the storm generated 46 fatalities with the majority of these deaths located in Jersey and New York. Shortly after Ida subsided, New Jersey reported 29 deaths- with most of these civilians belonging from the state’s central region. As discussed by Governor Phil Murphy, civilians unknowingly believed it was safe to drive. However, as the night progressed, roadways experienced extreme flash flooding-which then trapped New Jerseyans in their cars.

While the storm continued, Ida’s rainfall increased in quantity and intensity. Manville, New Brunswick, Somerville, and South Bound Brook experienced the most extreme flash flooding. As shown in the data conducted by the Rutgers University Weather Service, rainfall was abundant on the first night (September 1st). In Central Jersey, the duration of these downpours were six-hour events- New Brunswick specifically endured 6.99 inches of rainfall while East Brunswick collected 8.62 inches. Regarding the New Brunswick community, 1,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes, Route 18 and 15 additional roadways were submerged in water, power outages spread through Easton Ave and Hamilton Street, the Raritan River overflowed, and the city’s emergency shelters were used by over 160 residents.

Due to the devastating conditions of Hurricane Ida, it is imperative to understand how climate change exacerbated this disaster. David Robinson, a Meteorology Professor at Rutgers University provides the following explanation: “Climate change underpins all of our weather events today.... It makes warm days warmer. It makes rainy days rainier. There’s evidence that we prime the atmosphere a little bit more with energy now and with moisture because the atmosphere is warmer and the oceans are warmer” (NJ Spotlight). As explained by Professor Robinson, climate change is the underlying factor for chaotic weather events. Climate change accelerates the intensity of already perilous storms and increases the frequency of threatening weather.

This relationship between climate change and erratic weather signifies the global necessity for climate intervention. Without climate mediation, the calamitous weather experienced from Hurricane Ida will be repeated. To combat this threat, Rutgers students are eager to generate movement on their newly released Climate Action Plan which proposes a carbon neutrality date of 2040. As discussed in the plan, decarbonizing vehicles, equipment, and establishing 100% renewable energy will decrease carbon emission and protect the New Brunswick community from future climate disasters. By prioritizing the Climate Action Plan, Rutgers University can lead New Jersey through the climate crisis and curb the devastation of future disasters.

Flooding in Manville, NJ

Route 18 completely submerged


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