NEW YORK (PIX11) — The subway system ground to a halt in New York City Wednesday night as rain flooded into the transit system. Scary videos emerged of water pouring into a Manhattan subway station.
Water gushed into the 28th Street station as commuters waited for a train with Ida pounding the city. New York’s infrastructure has been criticized in recent months as subway stations have flooded.
At 10:15 p.m., an MTA spokesperson said people should not travel on subways. Officials said excessive amounts of water had entered stations, submerged tracks, and caused damage. “At this time, there is very limited train service,” the spokesperson tweeted.
Some videos made it seem as if the storm was inside the train stations. New York City Councilman Justin Brannan described the amount of rain as “biblical.” He tweeted: “There isn’t a sewer system on the planet that can handle this much water at this rate—certainly not our ancient sewers here in New York City, some of which are still made of brick.”
When commuters were forced to walk through deep water in a station in July, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia—newly appointed to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration—called climate change an urgent crisis.
“Having pumped water out of our tunnels during Superstorm Sandy, I know extreme weather events like these won’t just go away,” she tweeted at the time. “We must invest in resiliency strategies now to protect our city and keep New Yorkers safe.”
Even on a normal day, the MTA pumps 14 million gallons of water from subway stations, so days with heavy rain pose challenges. The subway system is shallow in most places, said Janno Lieber, MTA Acting Chair.
“The subway system is not a submarine,” he said. “You have the utilities and other activities at the street level that have poked holes in the subway’s roof.”
Of the MTA’s 665 miles of subway track, 418 are underground, which means they’re vulnerable to flooding. Underground floods are often caused by issues at ground level, Lieber explained. When the drainage and sewer system are overwhelmed, it sends water flooding into the subway system.
As part of a subway action plan, the MTA cleared debris from over 40,000 street grates in recent years. The grates are needed for ventilation, but there’s often a buildup of garbage and leaves in them.
“That is very hard to prevent,” Lieber said.