Multiple New York City subway lines were shut on Friday evening, streets were inundated and flights cancelled after several inches of torrential rain pelted the metropolitan area, prompting flood warnings across the region.
New York governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency across all of New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, saying state agencies were prepared to offer assistance. Mayor Eric Adams also declared a state of emergency.
More than 6in (15cm) of rain has fallen in Brooklyn and nearly that amount in Manhattan as New York found itself facing the worst of a coastal storm dragging across the northeast.
The extreme weather is “something that we cannot take lightly”, Adams said at a joint press conference with Hochul and other city and state emergency management officials. He said on Friday the city could see up to 8in of rainfall by the end of the day. It’s “a time for heightened alertness” and “it is extremely difficult to move around the city”, Adams said.
There was only “extremely limited” subway services and many stations were closed because of heavy flooding, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said. Metro-North trains were also disrupted.
Roughly 3,500 of the city’s buses were still operational, and people who must travel should use buses, MTA chief executive officer Janno Lieber said at the briefing.
The flash flooding was also snarling traffic on roads and at airports. The New York City police department reported full closures at the FDR Drive and Delancey Street in both directions and all lanes in both directions on portions of the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.
Flooding was also reported on numerous roads around the city, including the Grand Central Parkway, I-495 and the Northern State Parkway, the New York department of transportation website said.
At least 177 flights into and out of LaGuardia Airport were cancelled, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking company. Terminal A was closed.
All New York City schools were open, chancellor David Banks said, despite the fact that some buildings had taken in water. The city’s schoolbuses were pre-positioned for dismissal and were being staged early enough to give the buses time to get children home.
The deluge that has slacked off a bit is far from over and additional heavy rain could fall later on Friday, said Zack Taylor, a senior branch forecaster with the US Weather Prediction Center. “It is not advisable to be travelling around New York,” he said. “They are definitely not out of the woods yet. It is a pretty serious and life-threatening situation.”
New York City officials urged residents in basement apartments to seek higher ground, and said the city had so far fielded six calls to rescue people trapped in basement apartments. There have been no reports yet of any fatalities related to the rain or flooding, city officials said.
New York City office of emergency management commissioner Zach Iscol said the rain was the most severe the city had seen since Ida flooded parts of the city in September 2021. More than 40 people died across New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut in the aftermath of that storm, when the region saw flash floods in areas because of Hurricane Ida’s remnants. In New York City many flood victims were people living in basement apartments who were unable to escape the rising water.
“This changing weather pattern is the result of climate change,” department of environmental protection commissioner Rohit Aggarwala said at the briefing, noting that the city’s sewer systems were not built to manage such heavy rainfall.
The world is seeing more extreme weather as it grapples with a changing climate. Record warm conditions across large parts of the Atlantic this year have fuelled storms in some areas, while drought in others has contributed to massive wildfires and struggling crops and farmers. The world had its warmest August in at least 174 years in 2023.
Social media users in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, posted videos on X, formerly known as Twitter, showing flooded New York streets. – Bloomberg