New York suffered this Wednesday night catastrophic flooding after the heaviest torrential rains since there are records. Many parts of the city were under water by the effects of Tropical Storm Ida, which moved toward the northeastern US after landing as a hurricane in Louisiana, near New Orleans, last Sunday.
The meteorological phenomenon crossed the US in a transversal way and, although with winds much less dangerous than those that moved in the beginning, it caused record levels of precipitation. The Manhattan weather station collected 80 millimeters of water between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m., the highest record for that station. In another station, at the same time, even more, 95 millimeters.
The flood led the authorities to decree for the first time in New York’s history a state of emergency by flood, which was imposed both for the main US city and for the neighboring state of New Jersey. There were also catastrophic rains in other states in the region, such as Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
The US National Weather Service warned that flooding were “life threatening” and the authorities sent alerts to the telephones of the entire population to avoid going out or staying in low-lying areas. A tornado watch was also distributed, affecting various areas of New York and New Jersey.
At dawn from Wednesday to Thursday there was still no concrete data on victims or damages. But the impact on the city was monumental. Many streets and avenues turned into rivers, with submerged or floating cars. Crowds of low-lying areas of Brooklyn, Queens or Manhattan were flooded, as well as thousands of residential and commercial basements.
Subway service stopped almost entirely, with images of stations cascading down stairs, just as it was seen on stairways and courtyards of residential buildings. The Newark airport, the main one in New Jersey, suffered severe flooding.
Hundreds of thousands of people were left without access to electricity in states affected by the passage of Ida, which was expected to hit New York with heavy rains until 3 a.m. Thursday.
The sound of firemen’s sirens, responding to hundreds of calls for help due to the floods, continued throughout the night.
These types of violent rains are very rare. According to ‘The Washington Post’, the hourly precipitation levels recorded yesterday in New York occur every two or five hundred years. But New York had just suffered historic rains a little over ten days ago. It happened on the night of August 21, when the Big Apple suffered the effects of Hurricane Henri, which did not impact the city, but was strongly felt. That night led to the suspension of a star-studded concert in Central Park to celebrate the return of music to New York after the pandemic (something that the Delta variant has left in doubt).
Eleven of the twenty strongest torrential rains recorded since 1889 have been recorded so far this century. And four of that ‘top 20’ have occurred this year.