Stormy Sunday still being felt in NYC

August 15, 2011 3:01:38 PM PDT
Eight inches of rain fell at JFK Airport on Sunday - the most New York City has ever had in a single day.

But the rain was certainly not contained to the airport.

Staten Island saw some of its worst flooding in years, and the wet weather was believed to have caused a huge sinkhole. The crater, in the middle of Narrows Road North, was discovered early Monday morning and was slowing traffic. The massive hole is over an abandoned sewer connection that caved in, damaging utilities and causing major headaches.

Traffic along Targee Street was all backed up and moving at a crawl on Monday.

"I usually pound out about 80 cars a day. We've had only three customers today because of this," said Cody Nelson, manager at Staten Island All Tire Company. "We got guys here getting paid to work for nothing so it's costing us a ton of money today."

The flooded streets stranded drivers and generally caused quite a mess over the weekend.

Businesses continued to feel the impact on Monday. Lunch time at one gas station near the sinkhole is normally packed. Not today.

"It definitely affected our business for sure. We called 3-1-1 telling them, when is this going to end? They said they are doing testing. They are not sure when it is going to end," attendant Hany Rostom said.

A contractor is working to correct the damage, while Narrows Road North is shut down between Targee Street and Richmond Road. Traffic is being detoured around the area.

Elsewhere on Staten Island, some cars were almost completely submerged in water, leaving drivers stranded.

"It's the worst it's been in a long time," driver Tom Prestia said.

One of the hardest hit areas was on Ainsworth Avenue, where more than a half dozen cars were abandoned after drivers tried to navigate through the flooded street.

"I mean it's unbelievable," driver Thomas Oriol said. "There were people panicking. We were calling 911, who was telling us to call 311. DOT said we can't help, but more and more people kept getting stuck."

It was a tough Sunday for tow truck operators who had to actually go under water to pull these cars out.

"You take a deep breath, go under water and try to catch something strong enough to pull the car out," one tow truck operator told Eyewitness News.

In most spots, the effects were bad but not disastrous - sometimes narrowly so, like on New York City's Staten Island, where Tyler and Amaker were moving materials for a senior center being built.

As rain drummed the borough around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Tyler and Amaker were using an elevator to get supplies to a basement that, unknown to them, was filling up with floodwaters.

After they got in, the doors would not open, though they pressed buttons in vain.

"We hit the water; we heard swishing," Tyler said. Then the water started pouring in.

"I was freaked out - the water was almost chest-high," he said. They feared electrocution and jumped into a rubberized utility cart they had with them.

Of their two cell phones, one was wet one had no signal. Finally, they decided to break open a ceiling emergency hatch.

Almost an hour after they were trapped, one cell phone suddenly caught a signal and they called 911.

In a few minutes, fire rescuers arrived, shut off power to the elevator and hoisted the men out through the ceiling hatch with a ladder.

"The firefighters told me to go home and take a shower, because the sewage pipes backed up and probably got mixed with the rainwater that came in," Tyler said. No deaths or serious injuries were reported from the record-breaking cloudbursts, but the region wasn't out of the woods by midday Monday. Flood watches were in effect through the evening as far north as Rhode Island.

Some information from The Associated Press