New York Record-Breaking Rainfall Stuns and Swamps City; Additional Downpours Await
New York City experiences record-breaking rainfall, causing severe flooding, transportation disruptions, and airport closures. More rain is expected.
In an unprecedented turn of events, New York City experienced one of its wettest days in decades, leaving the entire metropolitan area in a state of shock and inundation. Heavy rainfall caused significant damage, including the disruption of subway and commuter rail lines, stranded drivers on highways, flooded basements, and the closure of a terminal at LaGuardia Airport for several hours.
By nightfall on Friday, John F. Kennedy Airport had received a staggering 8.65 inches (21.97 centimeters) of rain, surpassing the previous record set during Hurricane Donna in 1960. Parts of Brooklyn saw over 7.25 inches (18.41 centimeters) of rain, with some areas experiencing 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) in just one hour.
The deluge came exactly two years after the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused record-breaking rainfall in the Northeast, resulting in the tragic deaths of 13 people in New York City, primarily in flooded basement apartments. While no deaths or severe injuries have been reported from Friday's storm, it has undoubtedly stirred frightening memories for many.
Joy Wong, who lost three neighbors, including a toddler, during Hurricane Ida, found herself once again facing the threat of rising waters. Water began lapping against the front door of her building in Woodside, Queens, prompting her to stay indoors for safety. Within minutes, the building's basement was completely flooded, destroying the recreation room that had been created after the tragic events of 2021.
Reports of six flooded basement apartments were received by city officials, but fortunately, all occupants were able to evacuate safely. In response to the dire situation, Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams declared states of emergency, urging residents to stay where they were if possible. However, schools remained open, students attended classes, and many adults went to work, only to find themselves wondering how they would return home.
The impact on transportation was severe, with almost every subway line experiencing partial suspensions, reroutes, or delays. Metro-North commuter rail service from Manhattan was suspended for a significant portion of the day but began resuming operations in the evening. The Long Island Rail Road faced major disruptions, 44 buses became stranded, and bus services were disrupted throughout the city.
Malachi Clark, a high school student from Brooklyn, expressed his frustration after attempting to get home by bus and subway, only to face further obstacles. School buses were running, but they could only accommodate a fraction of the city's public school students, many of whom have disabilities.
The situation on the roads was equally dire, with traffic coming to a standstill on a section of the FDR Drive, a crucial artery along Manhattan's east side. Some drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles as the water rose above their tires. Priscilla Fontallio spent three hours in her car, which was not flooded but was immobile due to the gridlock.
LaGuardia Airport experienced flight delays and temporary halts due to water in the refueling area. Additionally, one of the airport's terminals had to be closed for several hours. However, normal operations resumed in Terminal A by 8 p.m.
The effects of the storm were not limited to transportation and infrastructure. A Brooklyn school had to be evacuated due to a smoking boiler, possibly caused by water infiltration. Another school in Brooklyn required volunteers to help clean up ground-floor classrooms that had been flooded.
Beyond the city limits, the impact of the storm was felt in Hoboken, New Jersey, and other nearby cities and towns. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered state offices to close early, except for essential personnel.
The astonishing amount of rainfall can be attributed to the combination of the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia over the Atlantic Ocean and a mid-latitude system approaching from the west. These factors converged at a time when conditions were particularly favorable for storm formation due to the abundant moisture coming off the ocean. The storm remained stationary over New York for an astounding 12 hours.
The National Weather Service had issued warnings of 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 13 centimeters) of rain, with some areas expected to receive more than 6 inches (15 centimeters), as emergency managers were advised. This deluge occurred less than three months after a storm caused deadly floods in New York's Hudson Valley and inundated the capital of Vermont, Montpelier.
As the planet continues to warm, storms are forming in an increasingly hotter atmosphere capable of holding more moisture. This phenomenon is leading to more frequent occurrences of extreme rainfall, as noted by atmospheric scientists. Despite nearby ocean temperatures being below normal and air temperatures not being excessively high, Friday's storm marked the third time in two years that rain fell at rates close to 2 inches (5 centimeters) per hour in Central Park, a highly unusual occurrence.
The Central Park Zoo was also affected by the heavy rain, with a sea lion swimming out of her swollen pool. The zoo, closed due to the weather, reported that the sea lion briefly explored her surroundings before returning to the pool.
In the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, Jessie Lawrence woke up to the sound of rain dripping from her ceiling. She soon discovered that water was pouring into her apartment building, flooding the hallway and flowing down the stairs. The rain had accumulated on the roof and was seeping through a skylight.
The impact of the storm extended beyond New York City, with flooding occurring in Hoboken and other nearby areas. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered the closure of state offices, excluding essential personnel, at 3 p.m.
The combination of factors that contributed to the extraordinary rainfall demonstrates the complex nature of weather systems. As the climate continues to change, it is crucial to monitor and understand these patterns to mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events.