Unprecedented rain causes severe flooding in New York City, overwhelming infrastructure


30th September 2023 – (New York) In an unprecedented weather event, New York City experienced record-setting rainfall on Friday, resulting in widespread flooding throughout the city. The torrential rain quickly inundated streets, basements, schools, subways, and vehicles, catching many commuters off guard during the morning rush hour. First responders swiftly intervened, rescuing individuals from stranded cars and rapidly filling basements.

John F. Kennedy International Airport recorded nearly 8 inches of rain in a single day, the highest amount since 1948. Brooklyn, in particular, was hit hard, with a month’s worth of rain falling in just three hours, leading to intense rainfall rates. These staggering rainfall totals are indicative of the impact of climate change, according to scientists. The warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, resulting in more intense downpours that overwhelm outdated flood protection systems.

During a news conference, Rohit Aggarwala, New York City’s Chief Climate Officer, emphasized that the changing weather patterns are a direct consequence of climate change. He expressed concern that the city’s infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing climate.

By late Friday afternoon, 3 to 6 inches of rain had fallen across the city, with more expected throughout the evening before gradually tapering off. In response to the severe flooding, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency for New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. She urged residents to stay at home due to the hazardous travel conditions caused by the flooding.

The New York City Fire Department conducted multiple rescue operations in flooded basements, while 150 out of the city’s 1,400 schools were affected by floodwater. Although schools remained open, one school in Brooklyn had to be evacuated when the flooding caused its boiler to emit smoke.

The subway system and railways also suffered major disruptions, with service suspensions on 10 train lines in Brooklyn and all three Metro-North train lines. Additional buses were deployed to help mitigate the impact of the train outages. By Friday evening, limited service had resumed on the Metro-North lines, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had fully restored service on seven subway lines.

Air travel was severely impacted as well, with flight delays at all three New York City area airports. Flooding forced the temporary closure of the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, although it reopened later in the evening.

Flood watches for the region expired by late Friday, except for Suffolk County on Long Island and parts of northwestern and southern Connecticut, where watches remained in effect until Saturday morning.

The extreme rainfall rates witnessed during the storm were remarkable. In Brooklyn, a month’s worth of rain fell in just three hours, an event that typically occurs once every 100 years. In Manhattan’s Central Park, nearly 2 inches of rain fell in one hour, the second-wettest hour in 80 years. John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens recorded its wettest day on record, with over 7.88 inches of rain since midnight.