Heavy rain, flash flooding impact commuters, homeowners in parts of tri-state region

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022
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CeFaan Kim is in Queens, where residents suffered another devastating blow after heavy rain flooded some homes Tuesday morning.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Heavy rain and flooding damaged some homes and created treacherous conditions on roads across the tri-state region Tuesday morning.

In Queens, flooding in the Whitestone, Flushing and Woodside damaged homes and brought back some painful memories of storms past.

One resident said about five feet of water came rushing in to their garage, ruining everything from electrical panels to irreplaceable family mementos.

It was only a year ago the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the area, leaving behind similar trail of destruction.

Roula Vlahos entire basement is now drying out on her front lawn, the water line in her home shoulder high.

"We should not have to be sick to our stomachs every time it rains," she said. "This is ridiculous to have everything in my house outside. I feel like a clown almost. Adding insult to injury, there's nothing left of my children's pictures."

Even her business van, which she relies on to make a living, was swallowed up by the storm.

The force of the storm ripped off Pauline Samartizis' garage door.

"Twice within one year, September 1 of last year and then again today, we have a raging river coming down our street, in New York City" she said. "The water did that (to the garage door). It's literally off the frame. The frame itself is off the wall."

Some residents say they didn't get any money from FEMA last year, and because insurance won't coverage flood damage, they'll have to foot the bill.

"We don't qualify for anything?" Pauline Samartzis said. "We're devastated time and time again. It's not fair."

Residents and the local City Council member pointed the finger at the city for failing to maintain the infrastructure.

"To come back and see the devastation again, every time it rains now these people are fearful," City Council member Vicky Palladino said. "They weren't compensated from the comptroller's office. Some of them waited seven or eight months to get FEMA money."

The city comptroller denied all 4,703 Ida claims filed directly against the city, which blamed the city's negligence in sewer maintenance.

The comptroller cited a legal precedent finding municipalities are not liable for damage from rainfall, even if the city's sewer system was under capacity.

Residents, meanwhile, are left feeling forgotten.

"Where is Mayor (Eric) Adams?" Samartizis said. "Do we not count because we're a middle class neighborhood? We count just like everyone else."

The floodwaters wreaked all kinds of havoc in other places, including on McClellan Street in Newark, New Jersey, where flash flooding blocked traffic and forced some motorists to turn around.

Car after car bypassed a police barricade before sunrise and continued through the high waters.

Many made it through just fine, while others opted not to take the risk, turning around instead.

At least one driver got stuck underneath a New Jersey Transit overpass and had to leave the car behind.

That happened just after 1 a.m., and hours later, the flash flooding returned.

Drivers told Eyewitness News the bottom of a nearby hill is prone to flooding.

"Every time it rains, these cars get stuck underneath there," Rich Koelhoffer said. "At least three or four cars get swamped out. People lose everything because of it."

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