Rain cripples New York City transit (video)

( AP ) - A torrential downpour sent water surging through New York's subway system and highway tunnels and across airport runways Wednesday, leaving thousands of commuters stranded and one big question: How could 3 inches of rain bring the nation's largest mass transit system to a halt?

The storm, which also spawned a rare tornado, hit just before dawn. By rush hour, the subway system was virtually paralyzed when pumping stations became overwhelmed. Bedlam resulted from too much rain, too fast; some suburban commuters spent a half day just getting to work.

"One big rain and it all falls apart," said Ruby Russell, 64, as she sat waiting on a train in Brooklyn. She had been trying to get to Manhattan for three hours.

The failure renewed a debate about whether the network of pumps, sewers and drains that protects the city's subways from flooding needs an overhaul. Every line experienced some sort of delay as track beds turned into streams gurgling with millions of gallons of rainwater. The washout was the third time in seven months that the subways were disrupted by rain.

Metropolitan Transit Authority engineers were asked to report back to Gov. Eliot Spitzer within 30 days with suggestions about how to deal with the chronic flooding.

"We have a design issue that we need to think about," Spitzer said.

The National Weather Service said a tropical air mass dumped an extraordinary amount of rain in a short period of time. The worst was recorded between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., with 2.5 inches falling on Central Park and almost 3.5 on Kennedy International Airport.

Naturally, the stormwater sought the low ground, and that meant the subways. Water poured in through vents, drowned the signal system and flooded the third rail, forcing a shutoff of power on some lines.

MTA Executive Director Elliot G. Sander said the intensity of the rain was simply overwhelming. The subway's drainage system can generally handle a maximum of 1.5 inches of rainfall per hour.

"The timing and intensity of the storm took us by surprise," Sander said.

The subway problems come as weather experts predict New York is due for a major hurricane. A storm with 130 mph winds and a 30-foot storm surge could cause the Hudson and East rivers to overflow - and bring with it more significant flooding than a severe rainstorm.

Keeping the subway system dry is a challenge, even in regular weather.

On an average day, hundreds of MTA pumps remove 13 million gallons of water from the system, which includes several tunnels and stations below sea level. Much of that water is groundwater that enters from sources such as streams.

Public officials called for improvements in the drainage system after a similar rain-related shutdown in 1999, and the MTA made some changes after another round of paralyzing tunnel floods in 2004, when the remnants of Hurricane Frances washed out the subways for hours.

The city's sewer and stormwater drains can handle steady rain, "but when it comes to these very intense, high inch-count rain events, over a short period of time, it is very difficult," said Michael Saucier, a spokesman for the city's Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd said the city is spending $300 million per year upgrading its piping systems and has been gradually building a more robust stormwater drainage system to replace the old combined sewers that handled wastewater and rain.

In Manhattan, Times Square was one huge mess Wednesday, packed with many of the 4 million riders who rely on the subway system daily. Thousands waited for hours for any means of transportation, jostling one another to get on the few buses that arrived. The suburbs were no better: In Westchester County, hundreds of commuters were stopped on a Metro-North train due to track flooding.

Streams of people in business attire - with briefcases, cell phones and BlackBerries in hand - trudged through drenched streets toward the subway. But it, too, was flooded. The hordes then made a beeline for buses they'd spotted up the street.

The storms also created problems for the region's airports, where delays of up to an hour were reported. The National Weather Service said a tornado touched down in Brooklyn, where winds downed trees, tore off rooftops and wrapped signs around posts. At least 40 homes were damaged.

Tornadoes have hit New York City before, but not often. The National Weather Service had records of at least five, plus sketchy detail on the last reported tornado sighting in Brooklyn, in 1889. None was as strong as Wednesday's twister, which had winds as high as 135 mph.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Jeffrey Tongue, a Weather Service meteorologist.

A woman on Staten Island died when a car got stuck in an underpass and another car came along and hit hers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. A handful of people were injured, Bloomberg said.

Lanie Mastellone, who lives in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge neighborhood, awoke as her roof was coming off. Before escaping, she ran to get her late husband's wedding ring.

"It happened so quick. Maybe he was watching over me," Mastellone said.

At the end of the day, some trains were finally back up and running. But commuters trying to get home were met with another unpleasant surprise: The storm left behind high humidity that felt like they were walking into a sauna - and when they got onto train cars, a sardine can.

Armenia trying to divert int’l community’s attention from illegal occupation facts
Armenia trying to divert int’l community’s attention from illegal occupation facts
Azerbaijan detects 132 new COVID-19 cases
Azerbaijan detects 132 new COVID-19 cases
Azerbaijan sends letter to UN due to illegal “elections” in occupied Karabakh
Azerbaijan sends letter to UN due to illegal “elections” in occupied Karabakh
Loading Bars
Latest
Spain declares 10-day official mourning for coronavirus victims
Oil prices climb, bolstered by ongoing supply curbs
Qatar reports 1,742 new COVID-19 infections, 47,207 in total
Armenia trying to divert int’l community’s attention from illegal occupation facts
Afghanistan to free 900 Taliban, urges ceasefire extension
Azerbaijan detects 132 new COVID-19 cases
Putin says Russia to hold postponed Victory Day parade on June 24
Azerbaijan sends letter to UN due to illegal “elections” in occupied Karabakh
Review of employment activity in Azerbaijan as of May 1, 2020
Uzbekistan siginificantly increases gold exports
Azerbaijan increases import of fruits
Nar 4G users up by 66% over the past year
Georgia reveals ongoing infrastructure projects
UNDP, Switzerland, Austria to distribute protective face shields to Georgia
Electricity generation drops in Georgia
Georgia reports one new COVID-19 case
Volume of loans issued by commercial banks down in Georgia
Tourist flow resumes between Georgia and Czech Republic
TBC Research: PPI increases inflationary pressure in Georgia
Central Bank of Iran reveals inflation forecast
Georgian Jimsher whiskey to be sold in US
Export of Turkey's leather goods to Kazakhstan on the rise
TAV Georgia to expand Batumi Airport
EBRD to finance large-scale project in Georgia
Iran reveals volume of wheat purchased from farmers
Azerbaijan sees growth in retail trade per capita
Iran announces number of dams under construction
Uzbekistan expands supply chain of wild cherries
Azerbaijan increases import of cars two-fold
Italy sees marginal decline of cement import from Turkey
Mudflow protection infrastructure to be built in Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan reveals amount of its transport sector losses due to COVID-19
Turkey reveals data on cargo deliveries to Germany
Azerbaijan records big boost in production of cars
Uzbekistan detects 81 new COVID-19 cases
Malaysia reports 187 new coronavirus cases, no new deaths
President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan is ready for new technologies, innovations
Iran discloses volume of cargo transported by land
COVID-19 cases near 140,000 in Iran
Azerbaijan sees growth in manufacturing of dairy products
India coronavirus cases rise as millions return home
Ukraine looking into importing gas via Southern Gas Corridor
Turkmenistan to take part in meeting of Council of CIS Heads of Government
Kazakhstan's electric power distributing company to buy cables via tender
Kazakhstan's ministry forecasts livestock production increase
Iran’s product export increases via Tamarchin customs
Iran's Chabahar-Zahedan railway’s sections to be put into operation
Azerbaijan may supply hydrocarbons to Europe through Ukraine, says economic adviser
Azerbaijani companies could be engaged in Ukraine’s oil and gas fields’ dev’t: economic adviser
Turkmenistan, Turkey discuss cooperation in trade, economic sectors
Azerbaijan's AIA: Local Bonus-malus system needs serious review
Kazakhstan's monetary base down, latest data says
Tea farmers in Iran earn more as sales to state increase
Azerbaijan may change compulsory car liability insurance rates
Volume of non-bank deposits up in Georgia
Solar panel stations commissioned in Iran's Ardabil Province
Singapore cuts 2020 GDP outlook again as virus batters economy
Ukraine's cargo transportation to Turkey increases
Iranian currency rates for May 26
Turkey records decrease in incoming tourists from Kazakhstan
China’s gasoline demand to return to last year’s levels soon
Turkey's export of goods to China cut almost in half
AzerGold opens tender to buy catering services
Turkey records drop of leather products export to Russia
Rouhani: Iran needs to realize all oil, petrochem projects as soon as possible
Masks too dangerous for children under two, Japan medical group says
Armenia violates ceasefire with Azerbaijan 26 times
Iranian president orders to accelerate railway, road projects
Weekly review of Georgian capital market
Revenues of Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation up
Georgian PM extends Ramadan congratulations to Muslims
Expert talks advantages of Iran's housing trade done via Mercantile Exchange
Public transport service may be resumed in Tbilisi in June
Regional Manager: IFC co-ops with Uzbekistan on planning of future projects
French tennis federation to set aside nine million euros to support professional circuit
Aussie police arrest pair over 400kg of meth stashed in hot sauce shipment
Brazil's Bolsonaro says he expects top court to end probe into his conduct over police
Japan gives up approving Fujifilm's Avigan drug for COVID-19 by May-end
5.2-magnitude quake strikes north of Levin, New Zealand
Singapore cuts 2020 GDP outlook for third time as virus batters economy
More African countries should heed UN call for global ceasefire: Guterres
Spain revises coronavirus death toll down by nearly 2,000
Siemens to initially keep 45% in Siemens Energy after spin-off: sources
Small aircraft crashes in Rome, one passenger missing
WHO suspends hydroxychloroquine, chloraquine trials as COVID-19 treatment
Second Iranian oil tanker enters Venezuelan water
Regeneron to buy back $5 billion stake held by Sanofi
Polish health minister denies wrongdoing in procurement spat
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva view restoration and conservation works at Pir Omar Sultan shrine in Shamakhi (PHOTO/VİDEO)
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attend opening of orphanage-kindergarten No2 constructed on initiative of Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Shamakhi (PHOTO/VİDEO)
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva view conditions created at multi-apartment buildings constructed in Shamakhi (PHOTO/VİDEO)
President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva view transport vehicles and special machinery allocated to Shamakhi district (PHOTO/VİDEO)
No alternative to renewable energy
Former UK PM Tony Blair questions Trump's leadership in coronavirus pandemic
Bosnian Premier League among worst in world for coach stability: survey
Philippines posts five new coronavirus deaths, 284 infections
Azerbaijan's E-PUL payment system grows user base, prepares new project
Azerbaijani Compulsory Insurance Bureau talks priorities in insurance market
Azerbaijani president, first lady view renovation work done on Pirsaat Baba shrine in Shamakhi (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Official talks latest status of Iran-India contract on Chabahar port
All news