New York City begins to dry out after record rainfall, intense flooding

Gov. Kathy Hochul says 28 people rescued from ‘raging water’ by first responders in Hudson Valley and Long Island

Traffic makes its way through flood waters along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Friday, September 29, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)
Traffic makes its way through flood waters along the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, Friday, September 29, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

NEW YORK CITY (AP) — New York City began drying out Saturday after being soaked by one of its wettest days in decades, as city dwellers dried out basements and traffic resumed on highways, railways and airports that were temporarily shuttered by Friday’s severe rainfall.

Record rainfall — more than 8.65 inches (21.97 centimeters) — fell at John F. Kennedy International Airport, surpassing the record for any September day set during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.

Parts of Brooklyn saw more than 7.25 inches (18.41 centimeters), with at least one spot recording 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) in a single hour, turning some streets into knee-deep canals and stranding drivers on highways.

More rain was expected Saturday but the worst was over, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Saturday morning during a briefing at a transportation control center in Manhattan.

What could have been a life-threatening event was averted, she said, because many people heeded early calls to stay put or head for higher ground before it was too late.

As a result, Hochul said, “No lives were lost.”

But the governor said 28 people had to be rescued from the “raging water” by first responders in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.

An empty stretch of the FDR highway in the Lower East Side of Manhattan is closed due to flash flooding on Friday, September 29, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

“We’ve seen a whole lot of rainfall in a very short period of time,” Hochul said. “But the good news is that the storm will pass, and we should see some clearing of waterways today and tonight.”

The deluge came two years after the remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped record-breaking rain on the Northeast and killed at least 13 people in New York City, mostly in flooded basement apartments. Although no deaths or severe injuries have been reported, Friday’s storm stirred frightening memories.

Ida killed three of Joy Wong’s neighbors, including a toddler. And on Friday, water began lapping against the front door of her building in Woodside, Queens.

“Outside was like a lake, like an ocean,” she said.

In this photo taken from video, work in flood waters to clear drains on a street, Friday, September 29, 2023, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Jake Offenhartz)

Within minutes, water filled the building’s basement nearly to the ceiling. After the family’s deaths in 2021, the basement was turned into a recreation room. It is now destroyed.

City officials received reports of six flooded basement apartments Friday, but all occupants got out safely.

Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams declared states of emergency and urged people to stay put if possible.

The deluge also came less than three months after a storm caused deadly floods in New York’s Hudson Valley and swamped Vermont’s capital, Montpelier.

Hochul blamed the frequency and intensity of storms on climate change.

“This is the scale in terms of the water that dropped from the heavens during this torrential rain event that actually was the same as Hurricane Ida. The blessing is that we didn’t have the wind associated with it that accompanied Hurricane Ida. But I remember that event like it was yesterday,” the governor said Saturday.

A woman holds her umbrella as she speaks on the phone on Friday, September 29, 2023, in Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

As the planet warms, storms are forming in a hotter atmosphere that can hold more moisture, making extreme rainfall more frequent, according to atmospheric scientists.

For the most part Saturday, most New Yorkers returned to their usual weekend routines, strolling through still-damp pathways in Central Park and city sidewalks.

Traffic was again flowing through highways that had been at a standstill just a day before, with water above car tires and forcing some drivers to abandon their vehicles.

Flight delays at LaGuardia Airport could no longer be blamed on downpours and flooding, which forced the closure of one of the airport’s three terminals for several hours before resuming later that night.

While skies remained overcast, one of the culprits for the severe weather — the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia — had moved on.

Some service interruptions continued Saturday throughout the city’s subway system, which had been in complete chaos the day before because of flooded tracks.

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