New York City in state of emergency as torrential rain floods subways, roads and basements

Sep 29, 2023, 10:47 AM

Cars drive through slight flooding on Ocean Avenue amid heavy rain on September 29 in the Flatbush ...

Cars drive through slight flooding on Ocean Avenue amid heavy rain on September 29 in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn borough New York City. Mandatory Credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(CNN) — Torrential rain caused flooding that closed roads, disrupted subway service and overwhelmed basements in the New York City area as “dangerous and life-threatening” rainfall surged across the concrete expanse on Friday.

A month’s worth of rain – more than 4 inches – fell over parts of Brooklyn in just three hours. Intense rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour were falling across the region, and the National Weather Service warned totals exceeding 8 inches “are increasingly likely” in parts of the tri-state area.

Track travel delays: NYC airports hammered with heavy rain and flooding

The heaviest rainfall began to ease across hard-hit portions of Manhattan and Brooklyn late Friday morning, but another round is expected in the afternoon and could reinvigorate dangerous flooding.

“This is a dangerous weather condition and it is not over,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a Friday morning news briefing. “I don’t want those gaps in heavy rain to give the appearance that it is over, it is not.”

Happening now:

  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency for the New York City area as torrential rain floods roads, basements and subways
  • The National Weather Service warned totals over 8 inches “are increasingly likely”
  • “Water on the tracks” suspended subway service for multiple lines in Brooklyn and Metro-North trains
  • The weather forced the closure of a LaGuardia International Airport terminal as flight delays mounted
  • 8.5 million people were under flash flood warnings in the New York City area

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency for New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley Friday morning. 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.”

Floodwater spilling into subways and onto railways caused “major disruptions” to subway service, including on nine train lines in Brooklyn and all three Metro-North train lines.

A torrent of water surged into basements in New York City Friday morning, according to New York City emergency management. It also overwhelmed sewers and flooded roads in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Hoboken, New Jersey, forcing road closures and water rescues there, authorities announced.

Air travel wasn’t fairing any better. Flooding at New York’s LaGuardia airport kept ground crews from accessing parts of the airport’s ramps. Flight cancellations were minimal as of Friday morning, but delays were growing quickly as authorities closed the airport’s smallest terminal — Terminal A.

More than 8.5 million people were under flash flood warnings early Friday across portions of New York and New Jersey the region’s National Weather Service office said. A widespread 1 to 2 inches of rain had already fallen across the warning area since midnight, with much more to come.

Millions of New Yorkers received alerts from the weather service Friday morning warning of a “dangerous and life-threatening situation” with a “considerable” risk of flash flood damage.

About 1.19 inches of rain fell at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens over an hour early Friday and as of 10 a.m., the major travel hub had recorded over 4 inches of rainfall since midnight according to the weather service.

The flood threat will impact roughly 25 million people across the Northeast Friday, and the New York tri-state area is facing a Level 3 of 4 “moderate” risk for flash flooding, the National Weather Service warned.

New York City has issued a travel advisory through 6 a.m. ET Saturday, warning of potentially “widespread travel impacts” during the morning commute. The MTA has installed drain covers, Lieber said, and will be deploying pump trains and sending crews to strategic locations throughout the transit system.

“We urge New Yorkers to prepare for heavy rain and potential flooding throughout Friday and Saturday morning,” NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol said. “All New Yorkers need to exercise caution. If you must travel, consider using public transportation and allow for extra travel time, and if you must drive, do not enter flooded roadways.”

Central New Jersey northward to Manhattan, Long Island in New York and into southern Connecticut and the Hudson Valley are expected to see the highest amounts of rain.

Meanwhile, neighboring cities of Philadelphia and Boston could see up to 2 inches of rain while Hartford could collect up to 3 inches or more. Overall, widespread rainfall totals between 2 and 4 inches are expected, but those totals could increase to between 5 and 8 inches in some areas.

A month’s worth of rain in three hours

The extreme rainfall rates over have produced prolific totals:

  • In Brooklyn: A month’s worth of rain, up to 4.5 inches, fell in only 3 hours on Friday morning, according to National Weather Service data. This three-hour rainfall total is only expected about once every 100 years in Brooklyn, according to NOAA estimates.
  • In Manhattan: Nearly 2 inches of rain fell in one hour in Central Park, the second-wettest hour there in 80 years. More than 5 inches of rain have fallen there so far.
  • In Queens: It’s a top-10 wettest day at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where more than 4 inches of rain has fallen since midnight.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated when the NYC travel advisory went into effect. It was 2 a.m. ET.

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New York City in state of emergency as torrential rain floods subways, roads and basements