New York City has been hit by heavy thunderstorms which caused a deluge of rain, flooding subway stations and roadways hours before Tropical Storm Elsa arrived in the city.
Elsa battered the Tri-State Area late Thursday into Friday with heavy rain and gusting winds before moving out to the northeast and weakened.
But in New York City, people were hit by "significant" flash flooding on Thursday which forced them to use garbage bags to try to protect themselves from the water.
Dramatic photos and videos were shared online, showing several subway stations taking on water — some from above, some from below.
One video showed a person trying to navigate waist-deep water at a subway platform by the 1 train at 157th Street.
Earlier Thursday, commuters had to wade through waist-deep water at the 157th Street station in #WashingtonHeights after storms flooded the station. Video: @PaulleeWR— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1) July 9, 2021
More rain is expected overnight into Friday morning. https://t.co/kSktiflrzM pic.twitter.com/tO0diwpZYZ
Another footage depicted people take what they called the "potato sack race approach" to the flooding.
"I saw people putting on waders," said Robert Paaswell, CUNY Distinguished Professor of civil engineering. "They should have closed the stations."
Many subway stations were overwhelmed by the Thursday deluge. The 3-inch-per-hour rains seriously affected the subway pumps, filling up some stations like jugs of water.
"I wouldn't take subway flooding out of context," Paaswell said. "Of the fact that we were hit with an enormous storm."
Crews are actively addressing flooding issues in our stations.— NYCT Subway. Wear a Mask. (@NYCTSubway) July 8, 2021
We’ve hardened stations in coastal flooding zones, but when streets above flood, water will always flow downhill. Please be safe and do not enter flooded stations while our crews work to resolve this. https://t.co/i08RxAhMe8
Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of New York City Transit, which operates the subway, said the flooding of stations was the result of a confluence of factors.
These include underground drains being overwhelmed by the ferocity of the rain; vents and stairways serving as conduits for the same reason; and street-level flooding spilling over curbs and down into the subway.
She also said that the rain’s impact on Upper Manhattan was uncommon. “What was different about this storm was that we got pounded by rain in places that don’t typically flood.”
Meanwhile, Eric Adams, the newly declared winner of the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, took aim at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent of Feinberg’s agency.
“This is what happens,” when the authority “makes bad spending decisions for decades. We need congestion pricing $ ASAP to protect stations from street flooding, elevate entrances and add green infrastructure to absorb flash storm runoff. This cannot be New York,” Adams wrote in a message on Twitter.
Local highways were also overwhelmed by the heavy rainfall, with the most serious on a section of the Major Deegan Expressway near East 179th Street in the Bronx.
Police officers used a barrier truck to rescue over a dozen people after their cars got caught in the fast-rising waters, according to officials.