NEW YORK — One of New York’s wettest days in decades on Friday left the metropolitan area stunned and swamped by heavy rain that disrupted several subway and commuter rail lines, stranded drivers on freeways, flooded basements and closed a terminal at LaGuardia Airport for hours.
John F. About 8.65 inches (21.97 centimeters) of rain fell at Kennedy Airport overnight Friday, breaking the record for a September day set during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
Parts of Brooklyn saw as much as 7.25 inches (18.41 centimeters), with at least one location reporting 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) in an hour, according to weather and city officials.
More rain was expected on Saturday.
The deluge comes two years after the remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped record rainfall on the Northeast and killed at least 13 people in New York City, mostly in flooded basement apartments. Although no fatalities or serious injuries were reported, Friday’s storm evoked frightening memories.
Aida kills three of Joy Wong’s neighbors, including a toddler. And on Friday, water started coming up against the front door of his building in Woodside, Queens.
“I was so worried,” she explained, that it was too dangerous to leave. “It was like a lake outside, like an ocean.”
Within minutes, the basement of the building was filled with water almost up to the roof. After the family died in 2021, the basement was converted into a recreation room. It is now extinct.
City officials said Friday that six basement apartments were reported flooded, but all residents were safely evacuated.
Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams declared states of emergency and urged people to stay in if possible. But schools were open, students went to class and many adults went to work, wondering how they would ever get home.
Almost every subway line is at least partially suspended, detoured, or running with delays. Metro-North commuter train service from Manhattan was suspended for the day, but resumed in the evening. The Long Island Rail Road was cut, stranding 44 of the city’s 3,500 buses and disrupting bus service across the city, transit officials said.
“When it stops the buses, you know it’s bad,” Brooklyn High School student Malachi Clark said after trying to get home by bus, then subway. School buses operated, but they carried only a fraction of public school students, many of whom were disabled.
A long line of people snaked away from the ticket counter in the late afternoon at Grand Central Terminal, where mic tags were among those whose trains were cancelled. The railway staff suggested possible solutions, but he wondered if they would work.
“So I’m going to sit here and ride it out until they open,” he said.
FDR, a major artery on Manhattan’s East Side. Some drivers had to abandon their vehicles as water pooled over car tires.
By 11 a.m., Priscilla Fontalio said she had spent three hours in her car on a section of highway that was not flooded but not moving.
“Never seen anything like it in my life,” he said.
On a street in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg neighborhood, workers were knee-deep in water as they tried to unclog a storm drain as cardboard and other debris floated by. Some arranged milk crates and wooden planks to cross the flooded sidewalks.
Flights to LaGuardia were grounded briefly in the morning and later delayed due to water in the refueling area. The flooding forced the closure of one of the airport’s three terminals for several hours. Terminal A resumed normal operations around 8pm
A Brooklyn school was evacuated after its boiler smoked and water seeped into it, schools principal David Banks said. Another Brooklyn school is sweeping classroom floors, and City Councilwoman Crystal Hudson asked for volunteers to help in an email.
The New York Rangers and New York Islanders postponed a preseason hockey game on Long Island. And at the flooded Central Park Zoo, a sea lion swam out of its swollen pool. As the zoo was closed due to weather, he looked around for a while before returning to the pond, zoo officials said in a statement.
In Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, Jesse Lawrence awoke to the sound of rain dripping from the roof of his fourth-floor apartment and heard strange sounds outside his front door.
“The water was coming thick and loud,” she said, opening the door, pouring into the hallway and down the stairs. Rain was pooling on the roof and seeping through a skylight.
Hoboken, New Jersey and other towns and cities near New York City were also affected by flooding. New Jersey Governor Bill Murphy called for state offices to close at 3 p.m., except for essential workers.
Why so much rain? The remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia in the Atlantic Ocean will combine with a mid-latitude system moving in from the west, making conditions off the ocean especially thirsty for storms, National Weather Service meteorologist Ross Dickman said. The combined storm stayed in New York for 12 hours.
The weather service warned of 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 13 centimeters) of rain and told emergency managers that more than 6 inches (15 centimeters) could fall in some places, Diekman said.
The flooding comes less than three months after a storm caused deadly flooding in New York’s Hudson Valley and swamped Vermont’s capital, Montpelier.
According to atmospheric scientists, as the planet warms, storms form in a warmer atmosphere that can hold more moisture.
In the case of Friday’s storm, nearby ocean temperatures were below normal and air temperatures were not too warm. Still, it was the third time in two years that Central Park had seen rain fall at a rate of 2 inches (5 centimeters) an hour, which is unusual, said Adam Sobel, a climate scientist at Columbia University.
The park recorded 5.8 inches (14.73 centimeters) of rain Friday night.