Sudden and heavy rainfall in the northeastern United States has caused flash flooding in various parts of New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley. As a result, Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have declared emergencies to address the situation. This unexpected downpour, with reports indicating up to five inches of rain, severely impacted the region, resulting in the closure of train lines and flooded highways.
By Friday morning, the heavy rain had rendered many city streets and over half of the subway system impassable, causing significant disruption during the morning rush hour. The MetroNorth railroad, which serves the Hudson Valley, had to suspend some of its sections. Additionally, major highways across Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn became impassable due to large pools of standing floodwaters.
Videos shared on social media demonstrated the intensity of the flooding, showing rainwater pouring like waterfalls into subway stations and even inundating buses. Entire neighborhoods appeared to be submerged, and parkways turned into lakes with floating cars. Recognizing the severity of the situation, both Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams urged New Yorkers to stay indoors due to the extreme weather conditions. Governor Hochul revealed that the state had been upgraded to a 70% chance of flash flooding, with up to an inch of rain likely to fall per hour.
In light of the emergency, Governor Hochul emphasized the importance of not only avoiding flooded roads but also roads that could potentially become flooded. She advised drivers, “If you are driving on a road and you start to see the water puddling on the street, you need to get off the road immediately.” Mayor Adams echoed this sentiment, urging people to stay home if possible, and shelter in place if they are already at work or in school.
While heavy rain is not uncommon in New York City, the recent storms have caused significant damage, leading to speculation about the underlying causes. Some point to climate change as the sole culprit. However, a study conducted by the University of Rhode Island in May suggested that the weight of New York City’s million-plus buildings was causing the city to sink up to two millimeters annually. This sinking, combined with changing weather patterns, has resulted in more devastating weather events.
Earlier this year, the Hudson Valley experienced what was described as a “thousand-year rain event.” In just three hours, eight inches of rain fell, causing highways and houses to be washed out and resulting in at least one fatality. These extreme weather events have had a profound impact on public perception. An AP-NORC poll conducted this month revealed that more Americans now believe in anthropogenic climate change as a result of experiencing such extreme weather. Following a summer declared the hottest on record by the World Meteorological Organization, ten percent more respondents attributed these changes primarily to human activity.
The flash flooding in New York City and its surrounding regions demonstrates the urgent need for preparedness and adaptation to changing weather patterns. As climate change continues to impact the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, it is imperative for governments and communities to prioritize strategies that mitigate the risks and protect vulnerable areas.