Hurricane Ida Deaths in New York City: A Microcosm of Who Climate Change Affects the Most

Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on the Major Deegan Expressway in New York City (The Bronx, to be exact)

A few weeks ago, the remnants of Hurricane Ida ravaged New York City with historic flooding. As I’ve told my friends about Ida, 2-4 inches of snow an hour paralyzes New York City, let alone 2-4 inches of rain an hour, which was what we received. The result was numerous deaths in New York City—deaths in communities that represent a microcosm of who climate change affects the most.

While it is impossible to chalk up the impacts of any one storm entirely to climate change, there is no doubt that warmer air and water temperatures create a recipe ideal for bigger and stronger storms what we got with Ida.[1] And Ida was a storm stronger (in terms of rainfall) than what one is typically expected to get with the sort of climate that exists in New York City.

Due to Ida’s floods, there were numerous deaths. Not only that, but most of the people who died from Hurricane Ida in my hometown of New York City died in illegal basement apartments.[2] It may be easy to wag one’s finger at the existence of basement apartments or those who live in them because they are illegal, but the unfortunate reality is that these basement apartments exist because many people in a city as expensive as New York cannot afford to live anywhere else.[3] In other words, most of the people who died from Ida were likely too much in poverty to afford living anywhere else.

And the fact that this storm, which was likely made stronger by climate change, killed so many who were so poor they could only afford an illegal basement apartment, should serve as a cautionary example of who climate change affects the most.

The situations with people in basement apartments during Ida is one example of this. But there are so many other examples of the poor being particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events fueled by climate change. There was Hurricane Katrina, where those who were in the lowest-lying areas most prone to flooding from the storm were predominantly poor (and Black).[4] It wasn’t just Katrina, though—with storms in general, those in lower-income neighborhoods are most likely to be the most severely affected by these storms,[5] even though they are the least able to handle such storms.[6] With wildfires, as well, the poor are often the most vulnerable—the University of California at Irvine found in a study earlier this year that those impacted the most by wildfires in that state (which have become more frequent as a result of climate change) have disproportionately been poor.[7]

This is not to say that those who are wealthier cannot be impacted by these storms. After all, the Hamptons in New York suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, while wildfires threatened Hollywood a couple of years ago. However, those who are wealthier have more financial resources than those who are poorer to recover from the extreme weather events made worse by climate change, if those who are wealthier even live in areas vulnerable to extreme weather to begin with (and in many cases, it’s the poor who live in the areas most vulnerable to extreme weather).[8] Furthermore, those who are wealthier are more likely to have a place to go in the event of a disaster threatening their residences. For those who think or hope that weather disasters made worse by climate change can be equalizers between the wealthy and everyone else, think again.

What this all means is that reducing poverty is more than an economic justice issue. It is a climate justice issue, too. And failing to address poverty and all its adjacent issues, such as housing affordability, other cost-of-living expenses, and job wages, contributes to more people being more vulnerable to extreme weather events made worse by climate change. As long as we fail to address this, I fear that we should prepare ourselves for higher death tolls caused by a combination of more extreme weather and a high number of people in poverty. That being said, this is a case where I hope I am wrong, and I would be extremely glad if I found that I were wrong.


[1] https://today.tamu.edu/2021/09/02/climate-change-helped-intensify-hurricane-ida-a-potential-preview-of-whats-to-come/

[2] https://abcnews.go.com/US/calls-change-11-people-nyc-basement-apartments-died/story?id=79818549

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4829446

[5] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/09/18/hurricanes-hit-the-poor-the-hardest/

[6] Ibid.

[7] https://news.uci.edu/2021/05/30/california-wildfires-disproportionately-affect-elderly-and-poor-residents-uci-study-finds/

[8] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2017/09/18/hurricanes-hit-the-poor-the-hardest/

Coronavirus Update From New York City (With Another Hurricane Ida Update): September 9, 2021

With this post, much like with the last one, I felt that it was important to dedicate some space to another update on how things are faring with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in my area.

The subways in New York City are back to normal. I think that amid all the bad news from the storm, the workers who helped get the subways back into functional shape should be applauded for their herculean efforts. In spite of all the water and issues caused by it, subway workers were able to somehow get the subways back into functional shape in time for people to return to work after the Labor Day weekend. We have seen the tremendous efforts of subway workers time and time again over the past two decades–from the work to restore service after the attacks of September 11, 2001 (which happened twenty years ago as of Saturday…yikes) to the work to restore service after Hurricane Sandy in 2012–but it is worth mentioning again.

There are some people for whom life may never return to normal as it was before Ida hit. Between all who lost so much from the flooding and the tornadoes, and those who died from Ida (many of them in basement apartments), there will need to either be no normal or else a “new normal” that looks vastly different from the old one. I am lucky to have not lost anything or anyone I know personally from Ida, but I know that some are not so lucky.

As for the pandemic situation in my part of the world, the metrics are looking like they are trending in the right direction. In terms of percent of those tested who test positive, number of confirmed cases, and number of confirmed hospitalizations, the numbers have actually improved.[1] They aren’t improving quickly, though, so it is no time for residents in my part of the world to get complacent. Especially with in-person schooling starting up again with a bunch of unvaccinated children, and with people returning from Labor Day holidays that in some cases were perhaps not well-advised considering the dire situations with the virus in parts of the country, we cannot get complacent, even where I am. In terms of the children and school, one hope I hold on to is that severe illness from the pandemic among children is rare, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.[2] For everyone’s sakes, hopefully it stays that way.

Speaking of Labor Day holidays, I found it shocking that so many of us acted like it was a normal-ish holiday, in spite of the bad shape parts of the country are in with this virus. It’s shocking because parts of the country are in the worst shape they have been in for months, yet some of us are proceeding as if there is no virus. I think doing that is a big mistake, and now we may have to buckle in for a post-Labor Day surge from the pandemic. This is one case where I desperately hope that I am wrong, though. While I sometimes take pride from correct predictions, a correct prediction here would mean that lives we could have saved were instead lost.

Even if we do go into a post-Labor Day surge, at least there are a decent number of ICU beds available where I am. Fewer than 6 in 10 ICU beds are being used in the New York City metropolitan area.[3] This stands in contrast with the horror stories I’m hearing from other parts of the country, mostly places with lower vaccination rates, where ICU beds are getting filled up. I’m hearing horror stories of how some places are getting to the point, yet again, of having to make painful choices of who to let live and who to let die. And let’s be clear here–this is because of people deciding not to get vaccinated. From Alabama, where 84% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 as of a few days ago were unvaccinated;[4] to Banner Health hospitals in the Western United States,[5] where more than 90% of its COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated;[6] to the CentraCare hospital system in Central Minnesota, where more than 90% of COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated;[7] the cold, hard reality is that this is a pandemic primarily of the unvaccinated. This is not to say that someone who is vaccinated cannot get the virus or get very sick with it, but the risk of that happening is clearly much lower for those who are vaccinated than those who are not. So, if any of my readers are unvaccinated, I hope that these statistics serve as a call for you to get vaccinated. And if these numbers don’t convince those who are unvaccinated, I can’t help but genuinely wonder what will result in you doing the right thing. As one can tell from my tone, my patience is wearing thin.

So that is pretty much it from my corner of the world–a corner where the situation is a mixed bag, at best, with the pandemic and the recovery from Ida. I look forward to hearing how others are doing, though!


[1] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page

[2] https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/

[3] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=22681191

[4] https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/local/alabama-icu-shortage-covid-19-coronavirus-vaccine-unvaccinated/525-355418aa-113b-4cc9-80a9-751498831243

[5] For those who don’t live in the Western U.S., Banner Health is a massive hospital system in that part of the country, with 30 hospitals and tens of thousands of employees. https://www.bannerhealth.com/about/glance

[6] https://kvoa.com/coronavirus-coverage/coronavirus-top-stories/2021/09/01/banner-health-more-than-90-percent-of-covid-19-patients-are-unvaccinated/

[7] https://www.mprnews.org/story/2021/09/04/latest-covid-surge-strains-central-mn-hospitals

Coronavirus Update From New York City (With a Hurricane Ida Update): September 2, 2021

While these posts on Thursdays during the worst of the pandemic have focused on the Coronavirus, I feel that it is appropriate that I start off this post by giving an update on how I, as well as my city, are doing after the remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed the New York area.

This may be old news for anyone who likes my blog’s page on Facebook or follows it on Twitter, but thankfully, I am doing okay, and so is the rest of my immediate family. My family lives in a house that did not get any flooding, in spite of rainfall that was over 2 inches an hour. Many other places did get flooding, and severe flooding at that, so I know we were lucky. I was also lucky that I didn’t have to go anywhere, either in the torrential rains of last night or the residual flooding from Ida. I’m especially glad that I didn’t have to use any subways today, because even now, which is well over 12 hours after the storm ended, every single subway line in New York is experiencing delays, partial suspensions, or complete suspensions. Our subways aren’t built to handle that much rain in that little time, and neither is our city. Granted, we’re not used to getting so much rain in so little time, either.

I want to send my best wishes to all of those affected by Hurricane Ida, from those devastated by winds, rain, and storm surge on the Gulf Coast to all who’ve been affected by its heavy rains in the Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic, and New England, to name a few. I hope all my readers in all those parts of the country affected by Ida are remaining safe. And if anyone who reads this has lost a loved one to Ida, I send my condolences to you and your family.

As for Coronavirus where I live, it’s a bit of a mixed bag of news.

On one hand, the ICUs are not packed in my area like they are in some parts of the United States. To show some examples of how packed ICUs are getting in some parts of the country, as of yesterday, 100% of ICU beds are currently in use in the Orlando metro area,[1] 96% are in use in the Birmingham, Alabama metro area,[2] 96% are in use in the Dallas metro area,[3] and 90% are in use in the Atlanta metro area.[4] At the same time, only 55% of ICU beds are in use in the New York City metro area.[5] I could be wrong, but I think what’s going in my area’s favor, at least as far as ICU beds are concerned, is that the vaccination rates are significantly higher where I am than in some of these other parts of the country where ICU beds are packed. That, in combination with a decent level of mask compliance (at least where I am), definitely helps.

Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like infections from the Delta variant are going down. If anything, there are parts of the city where the infection rates seem to be going up. And, with school years around the corner or beginning in my part of the United States, I am nervous about what the beginning of the school year might do to the transmission of the virus, especially since the Delta variant can affect kids. And, of course, kids under 12 can’t get vaccinated yet, so that fact means that kids may be at a high risk of not just getting the virus, but getting really sick from it. I certainly hope that school reopenings will go more smoothly in New York than they have in certain parts of the country. If they don’t go smoothly, we can start to see a situation where pediatric ICUs fill up. But, let’s hope that this doesn’t happen, and that we have a smooth start to the 2021-22 school year. The last 18 months have been trying ones for students at all levels of school, so hopefully we can have something go smoothly, for the sake of the kids, if nothing else.

If anyone wants to talk about how they are doing, how the virus is going in their areas, and/or how they managed with Hurricane Ida, please feel free to comment below.

Please note that I will not have a blog post next Monday, on Labor Day. However, I plan on having a Coronavirus update post next Thursday.


[1] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/orlando-kissimmee-sanford_fl/?s=22441170

[2] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/birmingham-hoover_al/?s=22441170

[3] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/dallas-fort-worth-arlington_tx/?s=22441170

[4] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/atlanta-sandy-springs-alpharetta_ga/?s=22441170

[5] https://covidactnow.org/us/metro/new-york-city-newark-jersey-city_ny-nj-pa/?s=22441170