Faith Monahan ’24
New York City experienced severe levels of flooding last week due to the landfall of Tropical Storm Ophelia. The event appears to many as a warning sign of living in a climate different from that which NYC infrastructure has been developed for. This past September has been the wettest on record for the city and most parts of the Northeast. The last major flooding event happened in September of 2021 during Hurricane Ida.
Borough presidents and other local representatives criticized the handing of the flooding by the city citing that inadequate warning had been provided to residents. The city released an emergency flash flooding warnings on Friday afternoon informing residents that the event was potentially life endangering. By that time, parts of New York City were already beginning to experience flooding of 4.5 inches within three hours the morning of Friday, Sept. 29, which is the amount of rainfall the city experiences on average for the entire month of September. Rainfall in some areas almost doubled that. In response to the criticism, Mayor Eric Adams has pushed back through several media appearances and radio interviews stating that his administration could not have done more in response to the flooding.
Schools remained open as of Friday, Sept. 29, sparking complaints from parents over the city’s decision to keep schools open. One hundred and fifty out of 1,400 schools in New York City had flooded with one school in Brooklyn evacuating. School buses provided little transportation that day leaving some students unable to travel home. The M.T.A. system also limited some of its routes as water poured into several stations. Many residents opted for high priced taxi and rideshare fees during the storm in order to go about their day.
No fatalities or serious injuries have been reported due to the flooding as of Saturday morning. Several rescues from basement apartments which are often hit heaviest during flooding events have been reported. During Hurricane Ida in 2021, 13 residents of basement apartments had died due to flooding from the storm. This past spring saw an increasing push to legalize basement apartments in order to improve tenant rights and the conditions of tenants living in illegal apartments which are often more affordable for lower income residents given NYC’s high rents. Due to being below street level, these apartments are the most dangerous during flooding events.
Heavy rainfall from the storm in the northeast had been forecasted by meteorologists several days before Friday. It was the ninth rainiest day recorded in NYC history. John F. Kennedy Airport reported that it had received 8.5 inches of rainfall on Friday. Throughout the storm, rainfall surpassed participation levels of 2 inches per hour in some parts of the city. The expected capacity of NYC drainage infrastructure is 1.75 inches of water drained per hour. The drainage limits of the city, as shown by the storm, cannot currently keep up with potentially more frequent heavier rainfalls as a warmer atmosphere will be able to hold onto more water leading to heavier rain, deluges and flooding.