A potent rush-hour rainstorm swamped the New York metropolitan area on Friday, shutting down some subways and commuter railroads, flooding streets and highways, and delaying flights into LaGuardia Airport.
Up to 13 centimeters of rain fell in some areas overnight, and as much as 18 centimeters more was expected throughout the day, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Friday morning.
By midday, although there was a break in the downpour, Mayor Eric Adams urged people to stay put if possible.
“It is not over, and I don’t want those gaps in heavy rain to give the appearance that it is over,” he said at a news briefing. He and Hochul, both Democrats, declared states of emergency.
No storm-related deaths or critical injuries had been reported as of midday, city officials said. But residents struggled to get around the waterlogged metropolis.
Traffic hit a standstill, with water above cars’ tires, on a stretch of the FDR Drive — a major artery along the east side of Manhattan. Some drivers abandoned their vehicles.
Priscilla Fontallio said she had been stranded in her car, which was on a piece of the highway that wasn’t flooded but wasn’t moving, for three hours as of 11 a.m.
“Never seen anything like this in my life,” she said.
On a street in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, workers were up to their knees in water as they tried to unclog a storm drain while cardboard and other debris floated by. The city said that it checked and cleared key drains, especially near subway stations, ahead of the storm. But that was little comfort to Osman Gutierrez, who was trying to pry soaked bags of trash and scraps of food from a drain near the synagogue where he works.
“The city has to do more to clean the streets,” he said. “It’s filthy.”
As the rain briefly slowed, residents emerged from their homes to survey the damage and begin draining the water that had reached the top of many basement doors. Some people arranged milk crates and wooden boards to cross the flooded sidewalks, with water close to waist-deep in the middle of some streets.
High school student Malachi Clark stared at a flooded intersection, unsure how to proceed as he tried to get home to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. He had tried to take a bus, then a train.
“When it stops the buses, you know it’s bad,” he said. Bus service was severely disrupted citywide, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Elsewhere, photos and video posted on social media showed water pouring into subway stations and basements.
Jessie Lawrence said she awoke to the sound of rain dripping from the ceiling of her fourth-floor apartment in Brooklyn ’s Crown Heights neighborhood. She set out a bowl to catch the drips, but she could hear strange sounds coming from outside her door.
“I opened my front door, and the water was coming in thicker and louder,” pouring into the hallway and flowing down the stairs, she said. The heavy rainfall had pooled atop the roof and was leaking through a skylight above the stairwell.
Dominic Ramunni, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in New York, said Friday’s rain was brought by a coastal storm, with low pressure off the East Coast helping to bring in some deep moisture from the Atlantic Ocean.
“This will be one of the wettest days in quite some time,” he said.
Virtually every subway line was at least partly suspended, rerouted or running with delays, and the Metro-North commuter railroad was suspended.
Flights into LaGuardia were briefly halted Friday morning, and then delayed, because of water in the airport’s refueling area. Flooding also forced the closure of one of the airport’s three terminals.
Friday’s flooding wasn’t nearly as bad as that two years ago, she said, but it was again filling the basement of her home on 64th Street with water. “Too much raining,” she said. “it’s not as bad as before, but still, it’s bad, bad, bad.”
New York City officials said they received reports that six basement apartments had flooded Friday, but all the occupants got out safely. Governor Hochul pleaded with residents to evacuate their homes if the water starts to rise.
“People need to take this extremely seriously,” the governor said.