New York City has been battered by tropical storm Elsa, with commuters wading through waist-deep water on subway concourses, rain falling directly onto train platforms, and frantic motorists rescued by police from their flooded automobiles.
Elsa has prompted concerns about how effectively the city is prepared for the effects of climate change.
Elsa has already caused at least one fatality in Florida and Georgia before moving north and unleashing a torrent of thunderstorms on Thursday. The storm is now anticipated to hit the Boston region, with flash flood warnings for roughly 40 million people from New Jersey to Maine.
Murky New York Water
On Thursday afternoon, New York City witnessed some of the most spectacular moments. People were seen wading through murky floodwater to catch the subway at the 157th St station in videos recorded by passengers.
"The water was dirty. One neighboring resident described the water as "completely opaque, a dark gray-green with fragments of debris floating in it." "It was truly revolting."
Passengers at the 149th St station were seen nervously moving along a platform as rainwater flowed from the roof. In contrast, commuters at Spring St were seen tentatively moving along a platform as rainfall gushed from the ceiling.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is in charge of the subway, warned that if street drains didn't manage the water, it would enter stations through vents. However, personnel has helped return stations to normalcy by Friday.
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Rescuing Stranded Vehicles
Above ground, a key roadway in the Bronx was totally inundated, prompting authorities to use a truck to rescue at least a dozen vehicles stranded by the rapidly rising waters.
The crumbling infrastructure of New York City was soon blamed. Eric Adams, who won the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City this week, chastised the MTA for "decades of poor budget decisions." "This cannot be New York," the former cop concluded.
Effects of Climate Change
However, other experts have pointed out that the severe rainstorms impacting the northeastern United States, especially New York, are consistent with the consequences of a climate unlike anything seen before.
Rain intensity is increasing as a result of global warming, according to a major federal government climate assessment released in 2018, which also warned that the region's aging infrastructure is "not designed for the projected wider variability of future climate conditions compared to those recorded in the last century."
Flooding in New York City "has already become more regular than in the past," according to Andra Garner, a climate scientist at Rowan University. "As long as we continue to warm the globe, we can anticipate more of this, not less," she said.
According to Garner's research, catastrophic floods of more than 2.25m (7ft), enough to inundate the first floor of a skyscraper, might impact New York City every five years during the next decade if planet-warming emissions are not drastically decreased. In the 1970s, big floods were predicted just once every 25 years.
In October, the city will mark the ninth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, perhaps the most well-known storm to have caused major flooding and power outages in New York City. Elsa has fueled criticisms that the city is still not adequately prepared for flooding, bringing transportation to a halt.
Officials from the state and city have proposed several initiatives to repair subway stations and install flood barriers along New York's extensive shoreline, but some worry if enough has been done. A municipal council member, Mark Levine, stated that the city was "far behind on hardening our infrastructure." "Climate change is here," Levine added.
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