Hurricane Ida brings historic flash flooding across NYC, second record rainfall in 10 days

September 2, 2021

Photo courtesy of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office on Flickr

Less than two weeks ago, New York City experienced the most rainfall ever recorded in a single hour with 1.94 inches documented in Central Park on August 21. That record was smashed on Wednesday night when the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the region, bringing 3.15 inches of rain to the park between around 8:50 p.m. and 9:50 p.m. The historic rainfall caused a flash flood emergency to be issued in the city for the first time ever, brought the subway system to a standstill, and ultimately left at least 12 New Yorkers dead.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday morning directed state agencies to prepare emergency response assets ahead of the storm and to “stand at the ready to respond as needed.” But it’s unclear how well prepared agencies were for a storm of this level.

“I know I deployed resources yesterday morning, but we did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night, that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level water to the streets of New York,” Hochul said during a press conference in Queens on Thursday.

A state of emergency remains in effect for all of New York City, as well as in Dutchess, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster, and Westchester counties in response to the flooding.

As of Thursday, 12 New Yorkers had lost their lives because of the storm, with a majority in basements of residential homes in Queens. Hundreds of people were evacuated from the subways and trains and many were rescued from their vehicles trapped in floodwaters.

Rainfall rates hit up to three inches per hour across many parts of the state, the highest ever recorded in New York. Total rainfall exceeded eight inches in Central Park and six inches at LaGuardia Airport.

During a press briefing in Queens on Thursday, Hochul said President Joe Biden called her and “offered any assistance.” The governor was joined by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

“The water rushes down, not just through the highways, but also finds its way to penetrate our subway system. And as a result, what happened yesterday, trains were shut down,” Hochul said. “People were stranded. The fear that they must have experienced when this occurred I cannot imagine, and I don’t want this to happen again.”

According to the governor, there are pumping systems in place to remove the water from the subways. Subway and train service is slowly resuming, but with delays.

“The brutality of storms now, it is different,” de Blasio said on Wednesday. “This is the biggest wake-up call we could possibly get.”


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