Record rainfall swamps New York City and the Tri-State area

Nearly 8 inches of rain at John F. Kennedy Airport surpassed its record for any September day

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Record rainfall swamps NYC, Tri-State
One of New York City's wettest days in decades flooded streets, highways, and homes while causing disruptions to subway, train and air travel.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- One of New York City's wettest days in decades flooded streets, highways, and homes while causing disruptions to subway, train and air travel.

The National Weather Service says it's preliminarily the wettest calendar day on record (since 1948) at JFK Airport with more than 8 inches falling since midnight. The previous record was set during Hurricane Donna in September 1960.

Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency for the city as more than a half-foot of rain fell in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens.

"Some of our subways are flooded and it is extremely difficult to move around the city. Many of our area airports are experiencing delays," the mayor said at a noon news conference. "If you are out and encounter a flooded area, roadway or subway station, do not enter and take necessary precautions. This is a dangerous weather condition and it is not over. I dont' want the gaps in heavy rain to give the appearance it is over. It is not. We could see eight inches of rain before the day is over."

Traffic was at a standstill, with water above cars' tires, on a stretch of the FDR Drive - a major artery along the east side of Manhattan. Some drivers abandoned their vehicles.

Priscilla Fontallio said she had been stranded in her car, which was on a piece of the highway that wasn't flooded but wasn't moving, for three hours.

"Never seen anything like this in my life," she said.

Photos and video posted on social media showed water pouring into streets, subway stations, and basements.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul also declared a state of emergency because of the conditions not only in the city but also across Hudson Valley and Long Island.

"Flash flooding is unpredictable and individuals who think they can go about their normal lives and drive vehicles or even take the subway, need to be aware that there are major disruptions," Governor Hochul told Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10. "Best to stay home if at all possible, but if you go into a vehicle you have a chance of being swept away and we lose more lives due to flooding events and people getting trapped in their vehicles."

New York Governor Kathy Hochul calls into Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10 to provide an update on the State of Emergency declared for NYC and parts of the state.

The deluge came two years after the remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped record-breaking rain on the Northeast and killed at least 13 people in New York City, mostly in flooded basement apartments. Although no deaths or severe injuries have been reported so far from Friday's storm, it stirred frightening memories for some residents.

Brooklyn swamped by heavy rain

Brooklyn seemed to take the hardest hit in the morning.

On a street in the South Williamsburg neighborhood, workers were up to their knees in water as they tried to unclog a storm drain while cardboard and other debris floated by. Some people arranged milk crates and wooden boards to cross the flooded sidewalks.

Brooklyn became an epicenter of Friday's rainstorm as streets and subways flooded under more than a half-foot of rain. CeFaan Kim has the latest on the impact in Brooklyn.

More than 6 inches of rain had fallen in Brooklyn before noon, knocking out subway service and flooding streets.

A Brooklyn school was evacuated because its boiler was smoking, possibly because water had gotten into it, Schools Chancellor David Banks said at a news briefing.

In Brooklyn's Crown Heights section, Jessie Lawrence said she awoke to the sound of rain dripping from the ceiling of her fourth-floor apartment. She set out a bowl to catch the drips but heard strange sounds outside her door.

"I opened my front door, and the water was coming in thicker and louder," pouring into the hallway and flowing down the stairs, she said. Rain had pooled on the roof and was leaking through a skylight.

Johny Fernandez has the latest from Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Flash flood warnings were issued for New York City and other parts of the city. Click here for the latest advisories, watches, and warnings from the National Weather Service

Mass Transit Disruptions

The MTA said service has been restored with residual delays after heavy rain and flooding caused service suspensions and disruptions earlier in the day.

Metro-North service has also ben restored with express train service once an hour and local train service once an hour. Heavy rain in the South Bronx caused severe disruptions as rain fell earlier in the day.

A long line of people snaked from the ticket counter in the afternoon at Grand Central Terminal, where Mike Tags was among those whose trains had been canceled. Railroad employees had suggested possible workarounds, but he wondered whether they would work out.

"So I'm going to sit here, ride it out, until they open up," he said

After hours of waiting, all Metro-North lines resumed with limited service by Friday evening.

Visit the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) website for continuing updates.

LaGuardia's Terminal A flooded

The flooding also impacted air travel. LaGuardia Airport temporarily closed Terminal A due to flooding. It reopened Friday night. Passengers arriving there were bused to Terminal C while it was closed.

Terminal A of Laguardia Airport will reopen Saturday at 4:30 a.m., according to Port Authority. Darla Miles is live with the latest details.

Flights were still arriving and departing at area airports, although intermittent ground stops were expected, officials said.

The FAA makes the decision to implement temporary ground stops as needed.

Departures from John F Kennedy International were delayed an average of 15 minutes. Minimal flight cancellations and delays were reported at Newark.

Air travelers should check the status of their flight prior to arriving at the airport. Check the airport websites below for up-to-the-minute updates as conditions are consistently changing.

Newark Liberty International Airport

JFK Airport

LaGuardia Airport

New Jersey

In New Jersey, multiple communities reported flooded streets and water rescues. Videos posted on social media showed parts of Hoboken, a notorious trouble spot, under water. Public Safety Director Ken Ferrante urged residents to stay home.

Hoboken Public Safety Director Ken Ferrante calls into Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10 to provide an update as the city endures stormy conditions.

Governor Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency effective at 3:00 p.m. due to hazardous weather conditions in parts of the state. The declaration allows extra resources to be deployed throughout the state during the duration of the storm.

The governor also closed state offices beginning at 3:00 p.m. The early dismissal does not include essential employees or emergency personnel.

Westchester County

North of New York City, a state of emergency was declared in Yonkers and Westchester County as the Bronx River Parkway flooded Friday.

Yonkers city officials are working to pump out large amounts of water from flooded roads due to Friday's historic storm. Sonia Rincon has the latest details.

ESU and patrol officers rescued multiple people from vehicles that became partially submerged by flood waters. They also assisted many others to safety who had to abandon their cars in rising waters.

Patrol officers carried a woman to safety when she became trapped in her car on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Mount Pleasant. In another incident, other officers rescued two adults and a 2-year-old from a car on the Saw Mill near the New York City line. The water had risen halfway up the car's doors and the occupants were unable to get out.

The parkways in the river valleys of Westchester are designed to help funnel the water away but the rivers get overwhelmed when it pours like it did Friday morning.

Long Island

Long Island escaped some of the worst weather on Friday morning, but during the evening hours Nassau and Suffolk Counties experienced some of the heaviest bands

Some drivers in Oceanside didn't hesitate to drive right through the flooding waters.

Others had second thoughts.

The rail did not relent the entire day - it just kept coming and coming, snarling traffic all over the place. Businesses tried to keep the water out for as long as possible.

The high water was no match for some cars - other drivers did not fare as well.

Nassau County officials kept their eyes on the rising water all day.

"We're monitoring our sewage treatment centers because obviously they're taking in a lot of water at this point. Stay off the roads," said Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.

Kristin Thorne is live in Oceanside where residents experienced heavy rainfall, thunder and lightning amid Friday's historic storm.

Some information from The Associated Press


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Heavy rain floods streets in South Brooklyn

Heavy rain brought widespread flooding in Brooklyn Friday.

Video shows floodwater up to windows of cars in Park Slope

Video from Park Slope Friday shows floodwaters rising up to the windows of cars.

Cars, pedestrians make their way through knee-high floodwater in Bath Beach

Cars, pedestrians, and MTA buses navigated knee high floodwater in Bath Beach, Brooklyn Friday.

Water floods backyard of home in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Water from heavy rain flooded the backyard of a home in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Friday.


MTA Chairman Janno Leiber provides an update on Eyewitness News Mornings @ 10:

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber talks about the impact to mass transit as NYC endures a State of Emergency.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)

Long Island Railroad

Metro-North Railroad

NYC Ferry Services

New Jersey Transit

Connecticut Commuter Rail (Shore Line East)

Take the following steps to ensure you and your loved ones are protected:

  • Develop a household disaster plan and know how to always contact family members. Identify an out-of-town friend or family member to be the "emergency family contact" and make certain all family members have the contact info.
  • Designate an emergency meeting spot - a familiar location where family can meet if the residence cannot be accessed.
  • Know hurricane and storm risks in your community.
  • If you live near coastal areas, learn about your area's storm surge history and your community's warning signals and evacuation plans, including safe routes inland and the location of official shelters.
  • Know where to relocate pets during a storm - most shelters will not allow pets.
  • Take the following preventative measures:

  • Obtain and store materials, such as plywood, necessary to properly secure your home.
  • Repair loose and clear clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Secure or bring inside lawn furniture and other loose, lightweight objects such as garbage cans and garden tools that could become projectiles in high winds. Also keep trees and shrubbery trimmed of dead wood.
  • Review insurance policies to determine extent of coverage before a storm strikes.
  • Determine where to move boats in an emergency.
  • Be aware of local weather conditions by listening to National Weather Service broadcasts on NOAA Weather Radio and reports from local television and radio stations.
  • Know how to turn off the power, heat and water at home.
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