Central Park in Manhattan recorded 3.1 inches of rain in one hour during a storm that spawned tornadoes and splintered homes in New Jersey. Back in New Orleans, some power was restored.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida barreled into the New York City region on Wednesday evening with furious, wind-driven rain that all but halted subway service, splintered homes in New Jersey, raised a tornado warning for the Bronx, and delayed the U.S. Open in Queens when the rain came into the roofed stadium sideways. The rain on Wednesday night — 3.1 inches in Central Park within an hour — shattered the record set only last week, when 1.94 inches of rain fell in the park during Tropical Storm Henri. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency in New York City for the first time. Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency just before 11:30 p.m., saying the city was “enduring a historic weather event” with “record breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads.” He warned New Yorkers: “Stay inside.” Just before 1 a.m., the city issued a travel ban in effect until 5 a.m. on Thursday. “All non-emergency vehicles must be off NYC streets and highways,” the emergency management office said on Twitter. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority advised customers in an email alert late Wednesday: “Train service is extremely limited, if not even suspended, because of heavy rainfall and flooding across the region.” The system’s website showed service was suspended across more than 18 subway lines. All New Jersey rail service, with the exception of the Atlantic City line, was suspended, New Jersey Transit said. At Newark Liberty International Airport, 3.24 inches of rain were recorded between 8 and 9 p.m., the Weather Service said. Newark Airport was experiencing “severe flooding,” the airport said in a statement on Twitter, confirming videos posted on social media that showed deep water pooling inside. “All flight activity is currently suspended & travelers are strongly advised to contact their airline for the latest flight & service resumption information,” the statement said. “Passengers are being diverted from ground-level flooded areas.” Around 9 p.m., the Weather Service issued a tornado warning for parts of the Bronx, after radar indicated a tornado had formed in the area. The flash flood emergency issued by the National Weather Service was more severe than a flash flood watch or even a flash flood warning. The agency defines such emergencies as “exceedingly rare situations when extremely heavy rain is leading to a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage,” typically with “life-threatening water rises resulting in water rescues/evacuations.” At times, strong wind gusts blew the rain sideways, enough to delay a U.S. Open match at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Wednesday night, as rain made its way into the stadium in spite of its roof. The storm system, advancing on a path to southern New England, brought drenching rain that could lead to life-threatening flooding, meteorologists said. As the stormy weather moved northeast on Wednesday, it prompted a string of tornado warnings across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, including a warning for Philadelphia after the National Weather Service said a “large and extremely dangerous” tornado had been observed south of the city, near Mullica Hill, N.J. “You are in a life-threatening situation,” the service said in a statement. “Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter.” Images and video circulating on social media on Wednesday showed homes that had been damaged as well as felled trees in the Harrison Township area in Gloucester County. The Harrison Township Police Department was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday night. Wenonah, another small borough in Gloucester County, in southern New Jersey, was heavily flooded and “suffered extensive damage following this evening’s tornado event,” the mayor, John R. Dominy, wrote on Facebook. He urged residents to call 911 for emergencies and to stay home or in a safe place. “Do not venture out. Many trees are unstable. Third, please do not approach downed wires as many may be live,” he wrote. “With nightfall, it is difficult to see and dangerous to either walk or drive. Many of our streets are impassable.” He said the authorities were assessing the damage and added, “We do not have an estimate of when power will be restored.” The storm had caused 57,519 power outages statewide and “these numbers are climbing,” Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said on Twitter. Residents in Lambertville, N.J., roughly 40 miles north of Philadelphia, posted photos that showed streets inundated with brown water, cars submerged up to their tires and flooded basements. Other parts of New Jersey as well as Connecticut and New York, including New York City, were under a tornado watch until 1 a.m. Thursday, meaning conditions are favorable for tornado development. A few tornadoes were possible, as well as isolated wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, the Weather Service said on Twitter. The storm, which hit Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 hurricane, has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, according to the National Hurricane Center. The last storm to hit the Northeast was Henri, which made landfall in southwestern Rhode Island on Aug. 22 as a tropical storm, sending lashing bands of rain across much of New England. Henri knocked out power in most of coastal Rhode Island, forced evacuations in Connecticut, stranded dozens of motorists in New Jersey and shattered rainfall records in New York City. At its peak, Henri left more than 140,000 households without power from New Jersey to Maine, and in New York City, cars were left stranded in flooded streets. And Henri had followed Elsa, which in early July brought relentless rain and flash flooding to much of the Northeast, downed power lines and forced would-be subway riders to navigate waist-deep waters on their way into one Upper Manhattan station. The morning commute on Thursday could be affected by drainage flooding in much of New England and the Mid-Atlantic, particularly in metropolitan areas, meteorologists said. “Obviously, it’s been so wet,” Mr. Ramunni said. “I can tell you it was the second-wettest summer on record for Central Park,” he said, adding that the amount of rain in the forecast, “on top of how wet it’s been, is going to cause issues.” In light of the flash flood watch, New York City Emergency Management issued a travel advisory for Wednesday into Thursday morning. At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York urged city residents to watch out for deceptively deep bodies of water that could appear to be shallow. “We’ll get through this one, too,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Let’s get this storm by us.” Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York ordered state agencies to prepare emergency response plans and told residents to exercise caution. Ms. Hochul also warned of the possibility of a tornado in the downstate area. More than 5,000 utility workers across the state have been prepared for damage and restoration responses, she said.