SATURDAY UPDATES: More rain coming to NYC after downpours snarled travel, flooded streets
NEW YORK — Torrential rains and flooding overwhelmed roads and transit in New York City on Friday, triggering officials to declare a state of emergency, and with implications throughout the region already soaked by the remnants of wind-whipped Ophelia.
"This is time for heightened alertness and extreme caution," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said during a news conference. "If you are at home, stay home. If you are at work or school, shelter in place for now."
Heavy rain and flooding will continue throughout the day travel conditions are dangerous, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul warned. Adams said the area could see as much as 8 inches of rain before the day is over.
“It is not finished yet, there’s more rain on the way, Hochul said during an afternoon briefing. “I’m asking, urging all New Yorkers to continue to be vigilant.” Hochul reiterated her earlier caution to people to avoid driving into areas with water over the road.
“The loss of life comes when people get in their vehicle,” she said.
The latest developments:
Friday becomes wettest day at JFK Airport on record
Friday became the wettest calendar day at John F. Kennedy International Airport since recording started in 1948 after heavy rainfall flooded Queens and the New York City area, the NWS reported. The Airport incurred 7.88 inches of rain in 15 hours, putting it over the previous record of 7.8 inches.
The NWS previously reported that Friday had become the wettest day in September on record at the airport, beating out the 5.83 inches of rain it received from Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Water levels in several rivers rose quickly Friday. The Hackensack River rose more than 6 feet in West Nyack, New York, while the Bronx River rose more than 3.7 feet at a gage near the Bronx Botanical Gardens, according to information from the weather service and U.S. Geological Survey.
State of emergency declared in New Jersey
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency, closing state offices and warning people to stay off the roads, starting at 3 p.m. on Friday as impacts from the severe rainfall were felt in the state.
"Throughout the state, especially in the north and central regions, we are experiencing heavy rainfalls resulting in hazardous conditions, and the rainfall is expected to accelerate in many parts of the state over the next several hours," Murphy said in a statement.
"We urge everyone to stay off the roads, stay safe and avoid flooded areas," he said.
The Saddle River near Lodi, New Jersey is expected to reach major flood stage within the next few hours, the weather service said just before 7 p.m. The river is forecast to crest at a height of 8.2 feet, slightly above the flooding on March 7, 2011, but well below its record heights.
In New Jersey, the highest storm totals were reported out of Long Branch, a beachside city hit with a whopping 7.75 inches, the weather service said Friday evening. Other towns in Monmouth County saw 1-6 inches of rain, and many other counties were hit with 1-2 inches.
See pictures of flooding in NYC
Sea lion escapes pool in Central Park Zoo, temporarily
A sea lion made a brief escape from her pool at the Central Park Zoo after heavy rains flooded the zoo's plaza.
"Zoo staff monitored the sea lion as she explored the area before returning to the familiar surroundings of the pool and the company of the other two sea lions," said Jim Breheny, Director of the Bronx Zoo and Executive Vice President of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Zoos and Aquarium, in a statement.
Water levels later receded, containing the female sea lion back in her pool, the zoo said. She remained inside an outer perimeter, and no one was endangered.
All four zoos and one aquarium managed by the Bronx zoo closed ahead of the storm.
Grand Army Plaza, subway stations in NYC inundated with water
Multiple subway stations shut down as conditions become increasingly perilous.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority reported there was "only limited subway service available" due to the flooding.
Videos show severe flooding at Carroll Street
Cars struggled to drive through a flooded Carroll Street while social media posts showed cars floating through the roads.
Subway service on the N train running between Manhattan and Brooklyn was also suspended, according to the MTA.
The National Weather Service announced that Kings, Brooklyn, remained under a hazardous weather outlook.
State of emergency in New York City, Long Island and Hudson Valley
Hochul announced the state of emergency early Friday on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
"I am declaring a State of Emergency across New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley due to the extreme rainfall we’re seeing throughout the region," Hochul said. "Please take steps to stay safe and remember to never attempt to travel on flooded roads."
"If people decide to venture out in a vehicle, they do so at their own peril," Hochul said. "Even 6 inches of rain, 1 foot of rain may look pretty innocuous and safe, but that is a condition where the vehicles can be swept away."
The National Weather Service said late Friday afternoon that heavy rain was moving through Suffolk County, New York, with flooding "likely to begin shortly."
"We have multiple reports of water rescues and motorists stranded in flood waters in Nassau County," the service said. "Do not travel this evening if you do not need to do so."
Family spends hours cleaning up after flooding enters Washington Heights store
Doshary Abreu, 29, was still sweeping pools of water out of her family’s shop, The New Candy Store, in Washington Heights at 3 p.m. She had started at 9 a.m. with her mother, Dominicana Marrero, 63, underground in the 181st Street Station of the 1 train.
“Now it’s just getting out of hand,” Abreu said.
The mother and daughter were considering closing the store early with the flooding that at one point was about 2 inches high. Business was down significantly, with fewer straphangers on the subway. But this wasn’t unusual in the store they’ve owned for more than three decades, and flooding has worsened at the heavily trafficked station in the last 15 years, Abreu said. Anytime it rains heavily, their little store floods.
“It shouldn’t be like anytime this happens, this is what I’m used to,” she said. “It should be like, OK, it’s better than last time. Now it’s getting worse.”
Next door to Abreu’s store, Ali Ali already has his clothing store’s merchandise lifted up with boards because of past flooding. Water on Friday seeped into the store, which had no customers as rush hour neared.“We are affected when the train is closed, we are closed,” Ali, the store manager, said. “We are affected.”While the subway station wasn’t closed, there were significant delays on trains as far as Upper Manhattan and in Washington Heights, subway riders had to make their way through pools of water deep under Manhattan’s streets.
New York City Public Schools Athletic League postpones sports contests after heavy flooding
New York City Public Schools postponed all sports contests due to the serious flooding, the Public Schools Athletic League announced via X.
It comes after New York Public Schools cleared parents to pick up their children on Friday afternoon after shelter-in-place guidelines were lifted.
Schools throughout the city remained open, even as major streets were closed and subway systems were inundated with floodwater.
How much rain fell in NYC? Was it a historic amount?
The 5+ inches of rain that fell at Central Park Friday made it the 8th-rainiest day there since records began 154 years ago, the weather service reported. “It appears that the rainfall from this storm could be New York City’s heaviest since Hurricane Ida in 2021,” AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jon Porter said Friday.
In fact, the hourly rainfall record in New York City has now been broken three times in just the past two years, WFLA-TV chief meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said on X Friday afternoon.
Since Thursday, JFK Airport has been slammed with 8.58 inches of rain, the National Weather Service said Friday evening. Midtown Manhattan endured second-highest storm totals at 6.16 inches. Central Park, Brooklyn and LaGuardia Airport were met with major downpours as well, ranging from 4.87-5.85 inches.
— Doyle Rice and Dinah Voyles Pulver
Why did NYC flood? How high tides made everything worse
The extreme rainfall that fell on the New York City metro area Friday could not have come at a worse time, forecasters said, due to the combination of the rain and the tidal cycle.
The National Weather Service warned in an online forecast released early Friday morning that "the period of heaviest rain this AM and this PM will coincide with two high tidal cycles ... This will limit storm drainage capacity for coastal locations during these times and exacerbate flash flood threat in these areas during these times."
Unusually high tides can push water inland in storm drains and rivers, streams and creeks. So where there is normally room for water to drain off, there might not be anywhere for it to go.
Overall, the phenomenal amount of rain that fell in New York City on Friday was "most certainly well forecasted and predicted in advance by computer models & the humans who interpret them," said meteorologist Ryan Maue on X Friday afternoon.
Indeed, National Weather Service forecasts going back to at least Wednesday warned of possible coastal flooding and lots of rain for the New York metro area on Friday. Looking ahead, the forecast for the weekend in New York looks mixed: More rain and showers for Saturday before clearing skies take over on Sunday, the weather service said.
— Doyle Rice and Dinah Voyles Pulver
What's the role of climate change in the NYC flooding?
University of Pennsylvania meteorologist Michael Mann told USA TODAY Friday that "a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and we see a sharp increase in the occurrence of very extreme rainfall events now in cities like New York City."
Mann also reported that Rohit Aggarwala, Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection and Chief Climate Officer for the City of New York, commented specifically Thursday on the increase in extreme rainfall events with warming that New York City is already experiencing.
"It’s not complicated. Warmer air holds more moisture," WFLA-TV chief meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said on X Friday afternoon.
— Doyle Rice and Dinah Voyles Pulver
Flooding comes in the wake of Tropical Storm Ophelia's sweep across the Northeast
The flooding throughout New York City and the Northeast on Friday followed Tropical Storm Ophelia's sweep across the region last weekend.
The storm first made landfall on a North Carolina barrier island, before moving up through Virginia to the Northeast.
Are subway trains running in New York City?
The MTA completely suspended the Harlem, Hudson and New Haven train lines due to flooding, according to the agency's website. The B, G, W and S subway lines are also suspended, MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber confirmed in a press conference.
"This is a tough travel day," Lieber said. "There are significant portions of the subway system that are shut down. We are starting the process of reactivating certain lines, but when water covers the electrified third rail, we have to do inspections, so that that will be unfolding slowly."
The MTA activated its 24-hour situation room after running inspections of subway stations vulnerable to flooding in preparation for the floods on Thursday.
Rainwater would inevitably seep into the subway system and impact infrastructure, according to the agency. It stands ready to deploy emergency trucks, deployable pumps, debris trains and pump trains in the event of flooding conditions.
“This is a serious storm, and we’re taking it seriously,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber in a press release. “We have a detailed plan in place to protect our network and deliver safe service throughout the storm. MTA crews have been deployed at strategic locations so they can respond quickly.”
What roads are closed in NYC today?
The heavy rain threatened major disruptions to the morning commute in the city. FDR Drive and Delancey Street were closed in both directions, and the Belt Parkway closed Exit 6 due to the conditions, the NYPD announced. FDR Drive reopened later after a four-hour closure.
“All New Yorkers need to exercise caution," said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol in a press release. "If you must travel, consider using public transportation and allow for extra travel time, and if you must drive, do not enter flooded roadways. If you live in a basement apartment, especially in a flood prone area, be prepared to move to higher ground.”
"The morning rush hour, I mean it's usually a slow go anyway, but in a lot of cases, it's a no-go this morning," Kines said. "There's a lot of roadways that are underwater and that'll probably continue for a good chunk of the morning into the afternoon."
Flooding in Brooklyn and Queens
Elizabeth Herron-Sweet, 36, braved knee-high water to walk her son to school in Brooklyn. In a video posted to X, she captured cars trapped in floodwater on Prospect Expressway.
"You can see in my video there was a car in the right lane that was stuck; it wasn't moving," she told USA TODAY. "It was kind of floating around and bobbing in the water, so we were really worried about them. I thought they were going to try to escape through the window, but they were still in the car."
The rainy conditions are expected to continue through Friday night, but should dissipate over the weekend. "If the sun doesn't come out tomorrow, it should certainly be out on Sunday," Kines said.
Are flights delayed because of New York City flooding?
Extreme rainfall in New York and New Jersey caused widespread flight delays and cancellations across the region Friday.
LaGuardia Airport's Terminal A closed after the concourse was inundated with floodwater. Posts on X captured travelers wading through the water.
As of 6 p.m., nearly 400 flights were delayed and 300 cancelled at LaGuardia, according to FlightAware. More than 400 were delayed at JFK Airport, and 200 others were cancelled.
Flights to JFK Airport were experiencing an average of 202 minutes of ground delay, while flights to Newark Liberty Airport were delayed by an average of 53 minutes.
New York City is sinking, so there could be more flooding
Scientists found most of the New York City metropolitan area is slowly sinking, making the region riskier to flooding, according to a study published this week.
A team of scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and Rutgers University in New Jersey published the study in Science Advances. They found the major metro area is sinking by an average of 0.06 inches per year.
Scientists studied the region's vertical land motion from 2016 to 2023 to see how much the land sinks or rises. They used interferometric synthetic aperture radar to study the land's topography.
Sinking threatens the metropolitan area, researchers said, with the sea level at The Battery, a park in Manhattan, rising 0.12 inches per year in the 1900s. More recently, the sea level has risen at a rate of 0.17 inches per year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NYC flooding: Heavy rain soaks map, creates subway chaos