Chaos As City Drenched by Heavy Rain, Snarls Mass Transit, Floods Roads, Buildings

Subways stalled, Metro North suspended service into Manhattan and roadway traffic was snarled as more than seven inches of rain flooded the city on Sept. 29. Manhole covers were seen swirling due to steam buildup, at least one Manhattan buildings was evacuated, the flooded FDR Drive and Delancey St were closed to traffic and a sea lion escaped from its pool in the Central Park Zoo. Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency across the downstate region and shortly before noon so did Mayor Eric Adams.

| 01 Oct 2023 | 01:52

Torrential rain was expected to dump up to seven inches of rain on the city creating a mass transit nightmare. It caused the evacuation of everything from office buildings and day care centers due to flooding, stalled more than half the subway system and flooded area roadways.

“This is a life-threatening rainfall event,” Governor Kathy Hochul said at a news conference with New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Friday at an emergency press conference around noon.

Subway service was “severely disputed.” Hocul said the MTA was employing more buses to try to offset the widespread subway delays.

“Service across our network is severely disrupted due to this extreme rainfall,” the MTA said on social media. “Please stay home if you don’t need to travel. If you must head out, use extra caution and check the service status for your line at before you go. Stay safe, New York.”

Subway service on the N, R, B, and W lines were suspended while the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, C, D, F, L, faced partial closures and severe delays. Metro North service into Manhattan was also suspended due to severe flooding in the Bronx.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area until 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 29.

Hochul had already declared a State of Emergency across New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley “due to the extreme rainfall we’re seeing throughout the region. Please take steps to stay safe and remember to never attempt to travel on flooded roads.”

The floods in the Central Park Zoo allowed a female sea lion to swim out of its enclosed pool, but zoo officials said she never breached the zoo itself.

“Zoo staff monitored the sea lion as she explored the area before returning to the familiar surroundings of the pool and the company of the other two sea lions,” said Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo and executive vp of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoos and Aquarium, said in a statement.

The NYPD by 9:36 am the NYPD issued a traffic advisory that “due to flooding conditions there are full closures at FDR Drive and Delancey St. going in both directions. Some motorists abandoned their stalled cars on the drive and East 20th Street between First Ave. and the FDR was also closed.

On the West Side, a smoke situation in the basement caused the evacuation of an office building at 500 Eighth Ave. in Chelsea.

The flood waters were so powerful, that steel plates on the street near 352 W. 39th St in Chelsea had shifted, with one user on Citizen app reporting it had exposed a construction hole beneath the plates. Firefighters were seen blocking cars, which kept them from falling into the crater, but backed up traffic as cars snaked around the firetrucks.

Steam buildup in the Stuyvesant Town area on the East Side of Manhattan caused manhole covers that can weigh up to 250 pounds to twirl in their tracks, due to pressure that came when cascading water landed on the red hot steam heating tubes below grade.

The Metropolitan Musuem of Art said it was closing at 5 pm on Friday.

There were a few bright spots for commuters. Mayor Adams cancelled alternate side of the street parking regulations and it was already scheduled to be suspended on Saturday due to a religious holiday.

At the emergency press conference on Friday shortly before noon, Adams declared a state of emergency for the city and urged people to stay home even if the downpour slowed temporarily. “This is a dangerous weather condition and it is not over,” Adams warned. “I don’t want those gaps in heavy rain to give the appearance that it is over, it is not.”

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber warned that when water covers the third rail, it could take some time to restore service in flooded subways, where more than half the system was shut down on Friday morning. “This is a tough travel day,” Lieber said. “There are significant portions of the subway system that are shut down. We are starting the process of reactivating certain lines but when water covers the electrified third rail, we have to do inspections so that will be unfolding slowly.” By Saturday morning the subway was running normally.