Bombarding rainfall turns NYC subway stations, highways into gushing waterways
An ocean of flooding woe confounded commuters Thursday afternoon as pouring rain inundated city streets and turned an uptown Manhattan subway station into an underground river.
The water was waist-deep at the W. 157th St. subway station in Washington Heights — but that wasn’t enough to deter one woman who became a local Twitter star as she waded through a passageway toward the southbound train platform.
It was unclear if the woman managed to make her train.
The W. 157th St. No. 1 station is beneath a low-lying area of Broadway at the bottom of slopes to the north, south and east.
Station workers later confirmed the water was waist-deep when the Twitter video was shot around 4:30 p.m. A pump quickly got the water out, said a worker, and the entrance leading to southbound trains was cleared by 6:15 p.m.
“This has happened at this station before during heavy rain,” said another worker who at 7 p.m. had just finished sweeping debris left by the flood.
NYC Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg said she’d seen videos of subway riders coping with the flood. “None of our customers should have to go through that,” she said, adding that the agency will look into why stations in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx were so hard-hit by Thursday’s rain.
Flooding was so heavy in some stations the MTA suspended A train service between 207th and 181st streets due to excessive flooding at track level near Dyckman St. in Inwood.
“Three inches of rain in two hours — it’s going to be tough anytime, particularly in a city, and it all runs downhill,” Feinberg said.
In a tweet, the MTA urged New Yorkers not to enter any flooded stations while crews worked to clear the water. Feinberg said she was “extremely grateful” to workers who battled the floodwaters.
“We’ve obviously still got folks who are pumping who are doing great work,” Feinberg said at an evening news conference in Union Square.
Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams slammed the MTA in a Tweet Thursday night, suggesting the Manhattan congestion pricing program already approved by the Legislature and Gov. Cuomo but stalled by government red tape would provide money to fix station flooding problems.
“This is what happens when the MTA 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,” he wrote.
Above ground, the NYPD’s strategic response group rescued stranded drivers trapped in their cars trying to drive through massive flooding on the Major Deegan Expressway near 179th St. in Manhattan.
Floodwaters also closed Harlem River Drive in both directions near Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem.
The National Weather Service on Thursday had the city under a flash flood watch set to expire at noon Friday. The city was also under a severe thunderstorm watch for much of Thursday afternoon and evening.
“This is a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order,” the warning read.
New York-area residents can expect the damp conditions to continue Friday as Tropical Storm Elsa passes through, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina.
“There may be a brief break, but it will be more in the way of light rain than dry conditions,” Pollina said. He expected that on Friday, Elsa would “overspread the area with more widespread rain.”