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Philadelphia Is Starting To Get A Handle Of The Damage Caused By Ida's Floods

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

People in Philadelphia are taking stock of damage today after rain from Hurricane Ida sent floodwaters rushing into their homes and businesses. WHYY's Katie Meyer reports from the Manayunk neighborhood that was especially hard-hit.

KATIE MEYER, BYLINE: Austin Trusty is standing in a Manayunk parking lot that's coated in mud from the Schuylkill River, gazing at what used to be the deck of a building his architecture company is renovating.

AUSTIN TRUSTY: The back deck is obviously gone, floated down Main Street.

MEYER: The old stone building is in bad shape - windows and doors blown out by the rush of floodwater. Even though this was a historically bad flood, Trusty says his firm is planning its renovation with the assumption that extreme weather events, driven by climate change, will keep happening more frequently.

TRUSTY: The way we're designing this, we're designing it around the floodplain to make it, if this happens, the damage is minimal, it's a clean out, and we're back open.

MEYER: Up and down Main Street in Manayunk, the scene is similar. Business owners are surveying damage, digging out mud and silt and seeing what they can salvage. Tim Spinner's restaurant Taqueria Amor got about 6 feet of water in the basement and now needs a new HVAC system. He's not sure how much insurance will cover, but he's trying to be positive. Other people have it worse.

TIM SPINNER: You know, just got to keep going, right? Can't give up. So it's one thing after the next. But this is Philly, you know? This is Rocky. He gets knocked down, he gets back up, and he keeps fighting.

MEYER: The damage isn't just to businesses. All through this section of the city, cars sit at odd angles after being swept up by floodwater. Marquis Jones has his tow truck stationed in a mud-coated parking lot right on the Schuylkill. He's handing out business cards as person after person comes up to him to ask if he can move their car. He says pretty much all of them are a total loss.

MARQUIS JONES: The insurance companies don't play about it - anything that accumulated water, everything that, you know, got wet, and everything is completely totaled.

MEYER: Even 24 hours after floodwater started receding, Philly is just starting to get a handle on the damage. To the southeast, Interstate 676, a major road to the city, still looks more like a muddy canal than a highway. Officials don't know how much cleanup and recovery will cost. Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel says one thing is certain - it'll be slow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM THIEL: The recovery process for this is going to take months.

MEYER: But Thiel and other officials say there is at least one silver lining - despite the historic flooding, nobody in the city was killed.

For NPR News, I'm Katie Meyer in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF TAYLOR MCFERRIN'S "DEGREES OF LIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.