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State of emergency declared in NYC due to torrential rain

September 29, 2023
Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(CNN) — Torrential rain caused flooding that forced rescues, 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.

A widespread 2 to 5 inches had already fallen across the the New York City area since midnight, with much more to come, despite periodic breaks in the heaviest rain.

“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 flooded roads, basements and subways
  • The National Weather Service warned totals over 8 inches “are increasingly likely”
  • Subway service was suspended on multiple lines in Brooklyn and Metro-North trains
  • LaGuardia International Airport’s historic marine air terminal flooded and closed as flight delays mounted
  • Emergency responders rescued people from flooded basements and cars

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.”

Firefighters performed rescues at six basements in New York City flooded by torrents of water, according to the New York City Fire Department.

The water also found its way into 150 of New York City’s 1,400 schools, which remained open on Friday, New York City school chancellor David Banks said at a news briefing.

One school in Brooklyn evacuated when floodwater caused the school’s boiler to smoke, he said.

“Our kids are safe and we continue to monitor the situation,” Banks said.

Floodwater spilled into subways and onto railways and caused “major disruptions,” including suspensions of service on 10 train lines in Brooklyn and all three Metro-North train lines. Gov. Hochul said the city was deploying additional buses to help fill the gap caused by the train outages.

Floodwater 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. Flight delays hit all three New York City area airports Friday. Flooding inside the historic Marine Air Terminal in New York’s LaGuardia airport forced it to close. The terminal is the airport’s smallest and serves Spirit and Frontier airlines.

A travel advisory remains in effect for New York City through 6 a.m. ET Saturday with more flooding expected.

The New York tri-state area is facing a Level 3 of 4 “moderate” risk for flash flooding for the rest of the day Friday, the National Weather Service warned. 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.

The flood threat stretched beyond New York City and will impact roughly 25 million people across the Northeast.

Heavy rain will expand north and east and impact a wide swath of southern New England through Friday evening. The heaviest rain in the region will center on Connecticut, where flash flood warnings were already in place on Friday afternoon. Rainfall of 3 to 4 inches slammed the southwestern portion of the state earlier Friday.

One to 3 inches of rain is also possible from central Connecticut to portions of Rhode Island through Friday evening. Parts of Massachusetts, including Boston, could tally up widespread rainfall totals of 1 to 2 inches by the time the heaviest rain comes to an end Friday night.

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 wettest-day on record at John F. Kennedy International Airport, preliminary data from the National Weather Service shows. More than 7.5 inches of rain has fallen there since midnight.

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