Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series by NBC10 that looks back at the year that was 2021 in the Philadelphia region. Part 2 on "Big Pivots" can be found here. Part 3 on "Arrivals and Departures" can be found here.
From the historic flooding of the Schuylkill River in August to the trucker who ousted New Jersey’s longest-serving Senate president, 2021 was full of surprises and intrigues.
The year started with a glimmer of hope as the vaccines started rolling out, but the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19 also brought a slew of new challenges that changed how businesses, schools and public events operate.
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And of course, things like a teenager getting hit in the face by a seagull while on a boardwalk ride down the shore also happened. So there's that.
Here's a roundup of some of the stories from 2021 across the Philadelphia region that we'll still be talking about in 2022 and beyond.
Extreme Weather from Hurricane Ida Remnants Devastates Region
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Fotos: Las historias más impactantes de nuestra zona este 2021
One of the biggest stories in our area was the destruction left by Hurricane Ida in the Philadelphia region back in August, which led to major flooding, water rescues, tornadoes and catastrophic damage.
In some areas, drivers were left stranded as drenching rain made for blinding conditions and flooded roads. Water rescues were still being carried out in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, Thursday morning as rescuers in boats pulled people from roofs.
After the storm, the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia crested above 16 feet, falling just short of the 17-foot record, but still very significant, according to the National Weather Service.
Catastrophic Tornado Rips Apart South Jersey Homes
A community in New Jersey felt the absolute power of a confirmed EF-3 tornado that ripped several homes apart in Mullica Hill this summer.
The tornado, which had peak winds of 150 mph, destroyed at least nine homes, with some leveled to their foundations.
One resident told NBC10 that he watched his neighbor’s home being torn apart while with his wife and children.
“I heard the rumble and I seen stuff flying and I told my wife and kids to get in the basement,” he said. “And I looked out the window and I seen their house going. First thing I did was run over to their house to make sure they were alright.”
Offshore Wind Comes to Jersey Shore
As our area transitions toward more sustainable energy sources, massive offshore wind farms could become the Garden State's ticket toward a cleaner future.
One of the first farms is expected to be completed and begin producing electricity by 2025. It is estimated that the project will produce 7,500 megawatts of renewable energy, enough to power half of the state's 1.5 million homes.
Eight other states along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States have similarly embarked on offshore wind endeavors, preparing for the arrival of a new era in American energy.
Seagull Flies into Teen's Face on Jersey Shore Amusement Park Ride
Seagulls aren’t afraid to get up close and personal with humans, as anyone who’s had their slice of pizza swiped while on the boardwalk can attest. Yet one teen girl had an especially close encounter with a bold gull while on a ride at a Wildwood amusement park.
Kiley Holman, 13, of Weatherly, Pennsylvania, was celebrating her friend Georgia Reed’s 14th birthday at Morey's Piers Adventure Pier on July 6. The teens decided to go on the Springshot ride.
As the girls screamed while being launched more than 75 feet into the air, a seagull crash-landed right into Kiley's face. Thankfully, neither Kiley nor the bird were seriously hurt.
Trucker Ousts NJ Senate President in Upset Election Win
While 2021 was full of election surprises, New Jersey had one of the biggest in their November elections as a commercial truck driver from South Jersey was able to defeat the state's longest-serving Senate president in a long-shot, upset victory.
Republican challenger Edward Durr, a commercial truck driver from Gloucester County, defeated Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney by more than 2,200 votes in New Jersey's 3rd District.
Right after his victory, Durr made headlines after some of his social media posts resurfaced containing xenophobic and transphobic comments.
One post on Republican Edward Durr’s Twitter account calls the Prophet Muhammad a “pedophile" and Islam a “false religion” and a “cult of hate,” while describing adherents to Muslim teachings as “fools.”
Durr’s win will result in upheaval of political power in the state, forcing the Senate to find a new president. Sweeney has been the chamber’s leader since 2010.
Former Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City Imploded
A spot on the Atlantic City Boardwalk where movie stars, athletes and rockers used to party — and where a future president honed his instincts for bravado and hype — was reduced to a dusty pile of rubble in February.
The former Trump Plaza casino was imploded as dozens of spectators watched from a distance in awe.
Opened in 1984, when former President Donald Trump was a real estate developer, Trump Plaza was for a time the most successful casino in Atlantic City. It was the place to be when mega-events such as a Mike Tyson boxing match or a Rolling Stones concert was held next door at Boardwalk Hall.
Though Trump built it, the property is now owned by a different billionaire, Carl Icahn, who also acquired the two remaining Trump casinos in 2016 from the last of their many bankruptcies.
Undocumented People in NJ Can Start Applying for Driver's Licenses
After years of waiting, undocumented immigrants are now be able to apply for driver’s licenses in New Jersey.
The historic bill approving state licenses for undocumented immigrants was passed in 2019 and was set to take effect Jan. 1 of this year, but the pandemic caused the date to be pushed back to May 1.
While the new standard license allows undocumented people and certain residents in New Jersey to lawfully drive nationwide, the license is different from REAL IDs, which are issued to lawful residents and are required to access federal buildings or fly commercially without a passport.