Storm Warnings Were Terrible. Why Was the City Not Protected?


By Wednesday evening, the warnings became even more dire. New Yorkers were warned of the hurricane and asked to move to higher ground. Calls to the city’s 911 emergency system and 311 helpline began to spike around 8 p.m., according to city officials.

Despite all this, the severity of the precipitation surprised forecasters.

Arthur DeGaetano, director of Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Climate Center, said Wednesday night’s flash floods were not caused by a single storm, but by several smaller storms whose interactions with each other were difficult to predict. Eventually, one after another, these storms spread across New York City.

“Just like New York City was on the train tracks, and the storms were like a train going down those tracks and it went on for hours,” he said. “I would say that the forecast of this storm or the remnants of this storm, the heavy rain that fell on the city the day before, is actually pretty good. At that moment, I don’t think anyone could have imagined six inches of rain in a six-hour period.

Indeed, on August 21, Central Park saw 1.94 inches of precipitation per hour, a byproduct of Hurricane Henri, with the most rainfall per hour. in the record keeping history. On Wednesday night, it dropped 3.15 inches in one hour, eclipsing that record.

While no one can predict the severity of the two weather events 10 days apart, in May city officials released a citywide analysis of the flooding caused by the rains.

The report sought to grapple with projections that the city would experience an increase in “extreme precipitation events” over the course of this century, including a possible 25 percent increase in annual precipitation and a significant increase in the number of days greater than an inch. your rain.

Part of that plan included a commitment to update the city’s flash response procedures. Among other things, he said, by 2023, the city should be “used to provide forewarning of potential hazards to residents living in basement dwellings and forewarning predicted extreme precipitation events.”


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