Heavy New York flooding kills one, causes widespread damage

Extreme weather batters the northeast US, causing flash flooding and the death of at least one person overnight.

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Vehicles come to a standstill near a flooded portion of the Palisades Interstate Parkway beyond the traffic circle off the Bear Mountain Bridge, on July 9, 2023, in Orange County, New York [David Bauder/AP Photo]

Heavy rain spawned extreme flooding in New York’s Hudson Valley, killing at least one person, swamping thoroughfares and forcing road closures on Sunday night, according to authorities.

Meanwhile, much of the northeast United States was bracing for extreme rainfall on Monday.

As the thunderstorms moved east, the National Weather Service extended flash flood warnings into Connecticut, including the cities of Stamford and Greenwich, with severe weather also forecast for Massachusetts. As the rains continued on Monday, those warnings were expanded to include New Hampshire and Vermont, stretching as far east as Maine.

Forecasters said some areas could get as much as 127mm (5 inches) of rain.

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Kathy Eason stands at a store front in Highland Falls where she had been trapped by floodwaters the previous day in New York’s Hudson Valley. [John Minchillo/The Associated Press]

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, speaking during a news conference on Monday, said the storm sent “cars swirling in our streets” and dumped a “historic” amount of rain in some areas of the state.

“They’re calling this a 1,000-year event,” Hochul said during the briefing in Highland Falls, a village along the Hudson River in a region known as the Hudson Valley.

One dead in Hudson Valley

Nearby, rescue teams had retrieved the body of a woman in her 30s who drowned after being swept away while trying to evacuate her home. Two other people escaped.

“She was trying to get through [the flooding] with her dog,” Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus told The Associated Press, adding that the woman’s house had been hit by boulders dislodged by the flooding, which completely surrounded her house.

Neuhaus said she was “was overwhelmed by tidal-wave type waves”.

Speaking at Monday’s news conference, he added that flooding left some areas of the region temporarily cut off from road transport, adding that “many cars that tried to go for it through the water didn’t make it and got stuck”.

The extent of the destruction from the slow-moving storm, which pounded the area with up to 200mm (8 inches) of rain, was still being assessed.

However, officials said the storm had already wrought tens of millions of dollars in damage, with some roads and bridges washed away.

The rains have hit some parts of New York harder than others, but officials said communities in the east of the state should brace for torrential rains and possible flash flooding.

Officials urged residents in the line of the storm to stay off the roads.

“The amount of water is extraordinary, and it’s still a very dangerous situation,” Hochul said.

“We’ll get through this,” she continued, adding, “It’s going to be a rough night.”

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Heavy flooding and washout on State Route 9W of the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Rockland County, New York, on July 9, 2023 [New York State Police via AFP]

Several warnings issued across the northeast

The governor declared a state of emergency on Sunday for Orange County, about 97km (60 miles) north of New York City. She later extended the state of emergency to Ontario County in western New York, southeast of Rochester.

“We are in close communication with local officials, and state agencies are participating in search and rescue efforts,” she said.

The state deployed five swift-water rescue teams and a high-axle vehicle to help with rescues in flooded areas.

Videos posted on social media showed the extent of flooding, with streams of brown-coloured torrents rushing right next to homes and roadways washed away by fast-moving flows.

West Point, New York — home to the US Military Academy — was also severely flooded. Officials worry some historic buildings might have water damage.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings across parts of southeastern New York, describing the weather conditions as “life-threatening”. It also announced warnings for northeastern New Jersey.

By Monday, “a considerable flood threat with a high risk of excessive rainfall is expected across much of New England”, the National Weather Service said in a tweet. Intense rain may be especially strong in Vermont and northeastern New York.

Showers and thunderstorms were also expected in New York City on Sunday night and may lead to flash flooding, the National Weather Service of New York posted on social media.

The city’s emergency notification system tweeted that the heavy rain could cause “life-threatening flooding to basements” and instructed residents to “prepare now to move to higher ground if needed”.

The storm also interrupted air and rail travel.

As of early Monday, there were hundreds of flight cancellations at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports and more than 200 canceled at Boston’s Logan Airport in the last 24 hours, according to the Flightaware website.

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A damaged car lays on a collapsed roadway along Route 32 in the Hudson Valley near Cornwall, NY [Paul Kazdan/The Associated Press]

The train company Amtrak temporarily suspended service between Albany and New York City.

In Vermont, some 25 state roads were closed. Vermont Governor Phil Scott said swift-water rescue teams from North Carolina were in the state, and one from Massachusetts was on its way.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck response,” he said at a Monday press conference.

“We have not seen rainfall like this since [the 2011 Hurricane] Irene, and in some places, it will surpass even that.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies