Floodwaters clear as New York emerges from historic rainfall


NEW YORK – New York City began to reclaim a sense of normalcy Saturday (Sept. 30, 2023) after historic rainfall the day before left residents with flooded roadways, waterlogged basements and leaky roofs.

Some flights departing John F. Kennedy International Airport were still delayed after the airport received 8.65 inches of rain the previous day – the most ever recorded there. The airport had about 13 percent of departing flights and 15 percent of arriving flights delayed as of 5 p.m., according to FlightAware.

Midtown Manhattan was similarly drenched Friday with 6.09 inches of rain, while 7.34 inches fell on Brooklyn. But some store owners who spent hours clearing away water managed to open on time Saturday morning, and public transportation had largely returned to normal.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said the experience shows how the state will need to prepare for a “new normal” of regularly occurring extreme weather events.

“We have to be sure that we are ready not for the storms of 1,000 years or the storms of 100 years, but the storms that are literally coming month by month,” Hochul said in a news conference Saturday morning.

The gurgling floodwaters on city streets recalled more deadly storms from previous years, such as the Hurricane Sandy disaster that killed 44 city residents in 2012 – or Hurricane Ida, which killed at least 13 as rising waters trapped people in basement apartments two years ago. But authorities have not reported any injuries or deaths from Friday’s rainfall.

Central Park got enough rain that a sea lion was able to briefly escape its enclosure at the zoo. A flood warning remained in effect for the Bronx until noon Saturday after “extreme flooding” there Friday, according to a safety update from the governor’s office.

Heavy rain also drenched most of Connecticut. A calendar-day record of 4.07 inches fell in Hartford, which has received 11.84 inches this month, the second-most in September on record. Hartford has seen more than 50 inches so far this year, the fourth-most on record year-to-date.

Hochul said first responders made a total of 28 rescues amid “raging waters” in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.

Full subway service for most of New York was restored by 8:30 p.m. Friday, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief executive Janno Lieber, while Hochul thanked the thousands of bus drivers who plowed through water to keep their routes open while subways closed for safety reasons. There was only one MTA station where water reached above the platform level, Lieber said.

Several store owners told The Washington Post that their basements had flooded, but they were generally more prepared for the rain compared with a few years ago. Instead, it was leaky roofs that dogged residents of the Astoria neighborhood in Queens.

Fayez Gad, 43, who works as a server and general operator at Aladdin Hookah Lounge in Astoria, said the basement flooded but only took an hour to clean, despite the strongest rain he has seen in the seven years working there.

The ceiling was more of a problem, Gad said, as it kept dripping water and he had to spend 12 hours cleaning the floor. “The customers know it’s not our fault,” he said. “It is what it is.”

The water crept into homes as well, as residents struggled to keep dry amid leaky pipes and dripping roofs. Cliff Straus, owner and manager of Straus Paint and Hardware in Queens, said customers have been coming in to fix roofs and windows. In his store, part of the ceiling broke and started a leak, something he said had never happened before.

“We all have flat roofs around here,” he said. “And what happens is water collects. It’s a lot of water and a lot of weight. It pushes down.”

Mohamed Elmahy, 65, who owns Hajj Driving School in Astoria, said leaking water ruined his couch and his rugs. “Water came in from every corner,” Elmahy said. “It drowned everything.”



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