Heavy Rain Soaks New York as Nor’easter Pounds the Region

Date: 2021-10-27 01:49:38

With officials and residents readying for the worst after disastrous storms this summer, the New York City region found itself on Tuesday in the throes of a menacing early season nor’easter that brought heavy rains, high winds and the threat of flash floods to a region scarred by intense summer weather.

As of midday on Tuesday, the worst fears — a repeat of the torrential and deadly deluge brought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida last month — had yet to materialize. But the nor’easter had dumped as much as three inches of rain on parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with more expected in the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

With the storm system expected to linger into Tuesday night, meteorologists warned of the potential for intense flash flooding, saying that rainfall rates of up to two inches per hour were possible in parts of New Jersey and the eastern end of Long Island. They have forecast as much as five total inches of rain in New York City.

The sprawling nor’easter is expected to move through eastern Massachusetts, including Boston and Cape Cod, on Tuesday afternoon, bringing ferocious winds and drenching rains through the evening hours and overnight, and dumping up to 4 inches in some areas.

Officials are warning that the heavy wind could bring power outages as the storm moves up the East Coast. Around New York City, the most intense winds are expected to begin on Tuesday afternoon. Parts of coastal Massachusetts and coastal Rhode Island are under a high wind warning from Tuesday afternoon from 2 p.m. into Wednesday, with the Weather Service cautioning that “widespread power outages are expected.”

About 3,200 utility customers have already lost power in New Jersey, officials said. Eversource, the main power supplier in Connecticut, reported more than 2,200 of its customers were without power in that state. Con Edison, the main utility serving New York City, said that it had crews ready to spring into action if trees fell on power lines.

Officials said that they expected to see increased power outages in all three states, particularly in coastal areas, as winds intensify.

“We almost certainly expect that number to go up, perhaps dramatically, with the higher winds that are coming later,” said Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey.

Roads were flooding in parts of New Jersey, Connecticut and New York, with flood warnings remaining in effect through Wednesday on the Saddle River in Lodi, N.J., and the Ramapo River in northeast New Jersey and Orange and Rockland counties in New York.

Early on Tuesday, parts of northeastern New Jersey that had been inundated last month — including the state’s largest cities, Newark, Jersey City and Paterson, as well as areas on the Hudson River waterfront — were placed under a flash flood warning that coincided with the morning commute.

Several public school districts in those areas decided to close in anticipation of the storm. Rutgers University asked instructors to move all of their classes online on Tuesday.

“In order to keep all students safe, all schools will be closed,” said Franklin Walker, the superintendent of Jersey City’s public school system, one of the largest in the state. Schools in nearby Bayonne and Montclair were also closed.

Parts of central New Jersey were also under similar flood warnings early Tuesday, with meteorologists there warning of “life-threatening flash flooding” in Monmouth County in particular. The Weather Service warned residents not to drive into flooded roads and cautioned that storm runoff would likely cause flooding in urban areas and low-lying spots.

New Jersey state troopers had responded to 188 crashes by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the state’s police superintendent, Colonel Patrick Callahan, said.

The rain was expected to continue through Tuesday, with a flash flood watch in effect for the bulk of the New York area into Tuesday evening. As of 11 a.m., the Weather Service had recorded 3.31 inches of rain in Midtown Manhattan, 2.43 inches of rain in Central Park and just over 2 inches at the city’s two airports in Queens.

Mr. Vaz said that thus far, the rates of rain in the city had not been excessive enough to induce the kind of flash flooding that inundated portions of the city last month, during Ida.

Still, some storm drains in Midtown Manhattan were straining to keep up with the heavy rains filling the streets, backing up at the corners and creating large puddles for pedestrians to navigate. The Police Department reported flooding that in some cases blocked traffic during rush hour on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a key traffic artery.

Winds of up to 35 miles per hour, with gusts reaching up to 60 m.p.h., were expected across coastal areas, including New York City, into Wednesday morning, raising the prospect of downed trees and power failures. Mr. Vaz said that parts of Long Island were particularly likely to experience massive gusts.

Officials moved quickly to prepare for the storm, in part scarred by the intensity of several storms this summer that exposed the region’s vulnerability to the extreme weather events made more frequent and intense by climate change.

“We’re not looking outside and seeing Ida today; however, every storm has to be taken seriously,” Joseph Fiordaliso, who leads New Jersey’s utility board, said at a news conference.

“Someday maybe we’ll just have a regular rainstorm. We don’t seem to get those much anymore,” he said, adding, “Climate change is real, and we have to work to mitigate as much of it as we possibly can.”

The threats were brought into stark relief last month, when torrential rain brought by Ida unleashed rushing waters that killed 11 people, including a toddler and his parents, in basement apartments in New York City. At least 43 people died across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut amid the hurricane’s watery remnants, which overwhelmed the region’s antiquated infrastructure.

Both Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and Mr. Murphy declared states of emergency Monday evening, directing agencies under their command to be ready to act on emergency response plans.

In New York City, officials issued a travel advisory warning those who “must move about” to be careful when doing so and to also give themselves extra time to reach their destinations.

City officials also advised residents of basement apartments like those that flooded last month to be ready “to move to a higher floor during periods of heavy rain” and anyone living in flood-prone areas to “keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, and lumber on hand” to protect their homes.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subway, buses and commuter rails, also said it was taking extensive steps to prepare for possible flooding. The remnants of Ida crippled New York City’s mass transit system, the second time in just a few months that the subway was the setting for striking images of water rushing freely into places clearly unable to accommodate it.

As of Tuesday afternoon, some buses were experiencing scattered weather-related delays. The subway was operating as expected. But some commuter rail service on the Metro-North Railroad was disrupted and service between the six southernmost stops on the Staten Island Railway, which runs along the east side of that borough, was suspended for several hours because of flooding.

New Jersey Transit suspended service between three stops on one of its lines because of “weather-related conditions” at a station in Fanwood, N.J., which was under the flash flood watch.

At a news briefing on Monday, before rain had started to fall, Janno Lieber, the acting chairman and chief executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said it was “prepared for whatever comes,” even as transit officials did not expect rain anything like the fierce, three-and-a-half-inches-in-one-hour burst brought by Ida.

Still, he and other officials said, work crews had already been dispatched to monitor and prepare 50 subway stations identified as especially vulnerable to flooding and that the authority had 900 pumps set to clear any stations that did become inundated.

Reporting was contributed by James Barron, Ellen Barry, Johnny Diaz, Precious Fondren Ed Shanahan and Tracey Tully.

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