Record-setting rain overwhelmed New York City’s sewer system on Friday, sending a surge of floodwater coursing through streets and into basements, schools, subways and vehicles throughout the nation’s most populous city.
The water rose fast and furious, catching some commuters off guard as they slogged through Friday morning’s rush hour.
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First responders jumped into action where needed, plucking people from stranded cars and basements filling like bathtubs.
More rain fell in a single day at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport – nearly 8 inches (20cm) – than any other since 1948.
A month’s worth of rain fell in Brooklyn in just three hours as it was socked by some of the storm’s most intense rainfall rates Friday morning.
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The prolific totals are a symptom of climate change, scientists say, with a warmer atmosphere acting like a massive sponge, able to sop up more water vapour and then wring it out in intense spurts which can easily overwhelm outdated flood protections.
“Overall, as we know, this changing weather pattern is the result of climate change,” Rohit Aggarwala, New York City’s Chief Climate Officer said in a Friday morning news conference.
“And the sad reality is our climate is changing faster than our infrastructure can respond.”
A widespread 3 to 6 inches (7.6cm to 15.2cm) of rain had fallen across the New York City by late Friday afternoon. More rain will fall through the evening, though it will gradually taper off.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency for New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley Friday morning as the worst of the flooding hit.
In an interview with New York’s WNBC-TV, she urged residents to stay home because of widespread dangerous travel conditions.
“This is a very challenging weather event,” Hochul said.
“This a life-threatening event. And I need all New Yorkers to heed that warning so we can keep them safe.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also declared a state of emergency for his state Friday afternoon.
Firefighters performed rescues at six basements in New York City flooded by torrents of water, according to the New York City Fire Department.
A man tries to pass a flooded street with his bicycle after a heavy rain in Williamsburg, New York. Credit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The water also found its way into 150 of New York City’s 1400 schools, which remained open on Friday, New York City school chancellor David Banks said at a news briefing.
One school in Brooklyn evacuated when floodwater caused the school’s boiler to smoke, he said.
“Our kids are safe and we continue to monitor the situation,” Banks said.
Floodwater spilled into subways and onto railways and caused “major disruptions,” including suspensions of service on 10 train lines in Brooklyn and all three Metro-North train lines.
Governor Hochul said the city was deploying additional buses to help fill the gap caused by the train outages.
Limited service resumed by Friday evening on the Metro-North lines and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fully restored service on seven subway lines by Friday evening, according to Demetrius Crichlow, senior vice president of the New York City Transit Department of Subways.
“Today was just not an easy day for us but like New Yorkers, we are resilient, we continue to press on,” Crichlow said.
MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said Friday evening one of three Metro-North Railroad lines was back up and running – the Hudson line – and noted the Long Island Railroad also has good service.
The MTA also said it is working to restore limited service to the remaining two lines on Friday night.
Air travel didn’t fair any better. Flight delays hit all three New York City area airports Friday.
Governor Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency for the NYC area. Credit: Getty ImagesRecord-setting rain overwhelmed New York City’s sewer system on Friday, sending a surge of floodwater coursing through streets and into basements, schools, subways and vehicles throughout the nation’s most populous city. Credit: Getty Images
Flooding inside the historic Marine Air Terminal in New York’s LaGuardia Airport forced it to close temporarily.
The terminal, which is the airport’s smallest and serves Spirit and Frontier airlines, was open again Friday night.
A travel advisory was set to be in effect for New York City through 6am ET Saturday (8pm Friday AEST) with more flooding possible.
The New York tri-state area is facing a Level 3 of 4 “moderate” risk for flash flooding for the rest of the day Friday, the National Weather Service warned.
The flood threat stretches beyond New York City and impacts roughly 25 million people across the Northeast.
Heavy rain will expand north and east and impact a wide swath of southern New England through Friday evening.
The heaviest rain in the region will centre on Connecticut, where flash flood warnings were already in place on Friday afternoon.
Rainfall of 3 to 4 inches slammed the southwestern portion of the state earlier Friday.
One to 3 inches of rain is also possible from central Connecticut to portions of Rhode Island through Friday evening.
Parts of Massachusetts, including Boston, could tally up widespread rainfall totals of 1 to 2 inches by the time the heaviest rain comes to an end Friday night.
– With Mary Gilbert and Aya Elamroussi
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