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Violent thunderstorms hit New York City and its suburbs Thursday, causing police to rescue more than a dozen people from a flooded stretch of freeway and forcing aspiring subway drivers to waist-high waters on their way to an Upper Manhattan station to drive on.
The heavy showers, accompanied by repeated outbursts of thunderous thunder and crackling lightning, resulted in flash floods across the region less than 12 hours before the remnants of Tropical Storm Elsa arrived in the region with its own rain and gusty winds.
Videos posted on Twitter showed several subway stations taking in water – some from above, something from underneath. The # 1 station on Broadway and 157th Street in Manhattan appeared to be having the worst effects of the storm, and some passengers chose to wade through dirty water on their way to the platform.
Traffic officials, already ready for Elsa’s arrival, said they had crews across town addressing the flooding issues as quickly as possible and warned not to enter stations that might still be flooded.
“The drains are working remarkably well,” said Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, who operates the subway. said in a message on Twitter.
The agency’s crews, she added, “worked hard and fast, as always, and did a great job. Give them space to work and be safe. “
The subway service itself has been largely uninterrupted, with only the northernmost end of the A-Line closed due to the rains, officials said.
In an interview, Ms. Feinberg said that Thursday’s flooding of the stations was the result of a confluence of factors: underground drains were overwhelmed by the severity of the rain; Vents and stairs that serve as ducts for the same reason; and street-level floods spilling over curbs and into the subway.
She also said the effects of the rain on Upper Manhattan were unusual.
“The difference from this storm was that we were hit by the rain in places where there is normally no flood,” she said, adding that train traffic from the 181 flood problems at 157th Street had largely been several hours earlier been eliminated.
Ms. Feinberg also urged subway users to put their safety first, be patient and not try to enter stations that appear impassable.
In response to a video of the scene on that station earlier in the day, Eric Adams, the newly declared winner of the city’s Democratic mayor area code, aimed at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent company of Ms. Feinberg’s agency, in a message on Twitter.
Mr Adams also called for the adoption of a languishing plan that fixes the prices of traffic jams and bills motorists heading to Midtown Manhattan to give a financial infusion to the transportation authority.
“This is what happens,” wrote Mr. Adams when the agency “has made poor spending decisions for decades. We need congestion prices as soon as possible to protect train stations from road flooding, raise entrances and add green infrastructure to absorb the runoff from lightning storms. That can’t be New York. “
Even on a dry day, water is a threat to a system that runs on electricity. And floods from broken water pipes and natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy periodically inundate the subway, which drills through layers of rock, traverses clogged natural springs, and is surrounded by groundwater.
Local highways had their own problems, the most serious of which were on a section of the Major Deegan Expressway near East 179th Street in the Bronx. Police officers used a lockout truck to rescue more than a dozen people after their cars were trapped in the rapidly rising waters, officials said.
At around 5:45 p.m., the National Weather Service’s New York office reported that 2.4 inches of rain had fallen on Hering Avenue in the Bronx near Pelham Parkway since about 1 p.m. By 8 p.m., about 2.3 inches of parking had been reported in Central, the weather service said.
Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist, described the day’s storms as “severe” and potentially dangerous due to the potential for flash floods.
“You could get into trouble if you’re caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Pollina.
As for Elsa, the remnants of the storm are expected to drop more rain with some storm showers on the city and the surrounding area from around midnight, Pollina said.
The weather service forecast winds in the 25 to 35 mph range starting Friday at 5 a.m. with some parts of Long Island subject to a tropical storm warning, he added.
Both the Transportation Department and New York City Transit had taken various measures for the storm’s arrival.
These steps included banning empty tractor units and other trucks on some bridges from midnight, and deploying crews to key points on the agency’s subway system and suburban train lines, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, to make sure trains continued to run all day, officials said.
The storm’s imminent arrival resulted in the closure of coronavirus mobile vaccination centers in New York City on Friday, officials said.