New York Breaks City's Rainfall Record With Nearly Eight Inches Soaking City

NY Times - August 15, 2011

by Barry Paddock, Sam Levin and Helen Kennedy DAILY NEWS WRITERS

New York broke an all-time record for a one-day rainfall Sunday as up to 8 inches of water soaked the city, snarling trains and flooding roadways.

By 9 p.m., 7.7 inches of rain had fallen at Kennedy Airport.

It was the most recorded there in a single day since the National Weather Service began keeping records 116 years ago.

The heavy tropical rain is expected to continue Monday, and a flash flood warning is in effect until 9 p.m.

The normal rainfall for all of August in New York is 4 inches - which means the city was socked with two months worth of rain in a single day.

"This is what you would expect in a major hurricane," said Steve Wistar, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.

Kennedy Airport's old one-day rainfall record, 6.3 inches, set on June 30, 1984, fell by noon.

Central Park, where the city's official rainfall total is recorded, saw 5.8 inches by 10:45 p.m., making it the fifth-wettest day of all time there.

The heavy rain caused scattered power outages and transit disruptions. Cars got caught in flash floods, and the Long Island Rail Road reported localized flooding and trees on the tracks, delaying several dozen trains and closing the Far Rockaway and Long Beach branches.

In the subways, water flooded into tunnels, knocking out parts of seven lines in the morning. By evening, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said, things were under control.

On Staten Island, firefighters rescued two construction workers who got trapped in a stalled elevator rapidly filling with water.

"We thought we were dead," said one of the rescued men, Ed Tyler, 26, of Milltown, N.J. "I literally thought I was going to die."

Tyler and Wendell Amaker, 48, of Roselle, N.J., were using the elevator to move material in a hotel being turned into senior housing. When the doors stopped opening, they rode down to the basement to see if they could get out - not knowing the basement had flooded.

"We felt it hit the water," Tyler said. "Immediately, the water started rushing in."

The water rose past their waists as they held a cell phone through a ceiling hatch to get a strong enough signal to call 911.

One firefighter went to the roof and shut down power to the elevator while the rest of the team opened the door to the shaft with a universal key.

"They were happy to see us," said Capt. James Melvin of Ladder 86. "The water was going up, down, up some more."

The firefighters lowered a narrow ladder through the ceiling hatch and bent a metal support beam that was blocking the exit.

The men were dirty from the filthy water, but uninjured.