Heavy Rain Soaks New York as Storm Pounds the Northeast

By Michael Gold

With the storm system lingering into Wednesday morning, meteorologists continued to warn of the potential for heavy winds and flash flooding.

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Heavy rain and high winds prompted flash flood threats in New York and New Jersey. Meteorologists forecasted as much as five total inches of rain in New York City, before the storm was expected to move up the coast through eastern Massachusetts.CreditCredit...Bryan Anselm for The New York Times
Michael Gold

A menacing early season nor’easter battered the New York City area on Tuesday, as heavy rains, strong winds and the threat of flash floods arrived in a region already scarred by deadly extreme weather this summer.

The storm dumped more than three inches of rain in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Tuesday, with more expected through the night. But as of Tuesday evening, it had yet to match the intensity of the deluge brought by the remnants of Hurricane Ida last month.

After a lull on Tuesday afternoon, rain began falling again in the evening, and the storm system lingered into Wednesday morning. Meteorologists warned that the storm could still produce heavy winds, significant rainfall and flash flooding across the Northeast.

The sprawling nor’easter began to move up through eastern Massachusetts, including Boston and Cape Cod, late Tuesday, dumping up to four inches in some areas.

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, more than 400,000 customers in Massachusetts and tens of thousands more in Rhode Island and Maine were without power, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utilities across the country.

Winds as high as 94 miles per hour brought down trees along the coast, and a high-wind warning was in effect through late Wednesday afternoon for parts of Massachusetts and southern Rhode Island.

Andrew Loconto, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Boston, said on Wednesday morning that the storm was just south of Nantucket but was expected to move out to sea later in the day.

“That should bring about a decrease in the wind gusts,” Mr. Loconto said, while noting that the Boston area could still see wind gusts up to 55 m.p.h. and Cape Cod could see winds near 65 m.p.h.

“It’s still pretty dangerous across Cape Cod and also at times in the Boston area,” he said. Rain showers should begin to taper off by Wednesday afternoon.

ImageA woman unloaded chairs for an outdoor dining patio in Manhattan as rain fell on Tuesday.
A woman unloaded chairs for an outdoor dining patio in Manhattan as rain fell on Tuesday.Credit...Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Around New York City, the storm’s resurgence threatened to snarl Wednesday morning’s commute.

The easternmost part of Long Island and the southeastern corner of Connecticut were also under a high-wind warning until Wednesday afternoon, with the Weather Service cautioning that “widespread power outages are expected.”

Utilities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut reported hundreds of outages throughout the day, and officials said that they expected to see increased power failures in all three states, particularly in coastal areas, as winds intensified.

“We almost certainly expect that number to go up, perhaps dramatically, with the higher winds that are coming later,” said Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey.

Roads flooded across the region, with flood warnings in effect through Wednesday for the Saddle River in Lodi, N.J., and for the Ramapo River in northern New Jersey and Orange and Rockland Counties in New York. The Weather Service extended a flood warning in Warren County and Sussex County through Wednesday morning after seeing “minor flooding” near streams and creeks.

The Weather Service also said there would most likely be minor flooding in southern Connecticut and on Long Island.

Nelson Vaz, a meteorologist at the Weather Service in New York, said that forecasters were concerned about flooding in northeastern New Jersey, where “some of the rivers are starting to come over their banks.”

Though New York City’s mass transit system experienced some interruptions, the storm had far less impact than the remnants of Ida. Some buses and commuter trains, including New Jersey Transit and the Metro-North Railroad, experienced scattered weather-related delays, but the subway was operating as expected.

As of Tuesday afternoon, intensive flash flooding had yet to materialize, though earlier in the day, parts of northeastern New Jersey that had been inundated last month — including the state’s largest cities, Newark, Jersey City and Paterson — were placed under a flash flood warning that coincided with the morning commute.

Several public school districts in those areas decided to close in anticipation of the storm. Rutgers University asked instructors to move all of their classes online on Tuesday.

“In order to keep all students safe, all schools will be closed,” said Franklin Walker, the superintendent of Jersey City’s public school system, one of the largest in the state. Schools in nearby Bayonne and in Montclair were also closed.

New Jersey state troopers had responded to 188 crashes by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the state’s police superintendent, Col. Patrick Callahan, said.

By Tuesday night, more than 4.3 inches of rain had been recorded in Brooklyn, more than 5.3 inches in Suffolk County and more than 5.2 inches in northern New Jersey, according to the Weather Service. A flash flood watch was in effect for parts of Long Island and Connecticut into Tuesday night.

The rain started falling again on Tuesday evening and was expected to continue through the night across much of the region.

Some storm drains in Midtown Manhattan were straining to keep up with the heavy rains filling the streets, backing up at the corners and creating large puddles for pedestrians to navigate. The New York Police Department reported flooding that in some cases blocked traffic during rush hour on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a key traffic artery.

Winds of up to 35 miles per hour, with gusts reaching 60 m.p.h., were expected across coastal areas into Wednesday morning. Mr. Vaz said that parts of Long Island were particularly likely to experience very strong gusts.

Officials moved quickly to prepare for the nor’easter, in part scarred by the intensity of several storms this summer that exposed the region’s vulnerability to the extreme weather events made more frequent and intense by climate change.

“We’re not looking outside and seeing Ida today; however, every storm has to be taken seriously,” Joseph Fiordaliso, who leads New Jersey’s utility board, said at a news conference.

“Someday maybe we’ll just have a regular rainstorm. We don’t seem to get those much anymore,” he said, adding, “Climate change is real, and we have to work to mitigate as much of it as we possibly can.”

The threats were brought into stark relief last month, when torrential rain brought by Ida unleashed rushing waters that killed 11 people, including a toddler and his parents, in basement apartments in New York City. At least 43 people died across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut amid the hurricane’s watery remnants.

Both Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and Governor Murphy declared states of emergency Monday evening, directing agencies under their command to be ready to act on emergency response plans.

Drivers navigated flooding on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway near Brooklyn Bridge Park.Credit...Dave Sanders for The New York Times

In New York City, officials had advised residents of basement apartments like those that flooded last month to be ready “to move to a higher floor during periods of heavy rain,” and urged anyone living in flood-prone areas to “keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber on hand” to protect their homes.

Reporting was contributed by Mihir Zaveri, James Barron, Ellen Barry, Johnny Diaz, Precious Fondren, Dana Rubinstein, Ed Shanahan, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Azi Paybarah and Tracey Tully.