Lower Manhattan flooded; parts of Brooklyn flooded up to a half-story high, with cars under water up to their roofs

The accounts of high flooding on “scores of city streets” in downtown Manhattan are inconceivable to me. Last night a site called Business Insider had many incredible photographs of flooding in lower Manhattan in which streets had turned into rivers and cars were almost submerged, but the site said it couldn’t vouch that the photographs were genuine, so I didn’t post them. But, based on this article in today’s New York Times, the photos are real.

Power Failures and Furious Flooding Overwhelm Lower Manhattan and Red Hook

With rapids-like fury, water piled out of New York Harbor on Monday night and flooded scores of city streets, venturing far deeper into neighborhoods than anyone could remember. Red Hook in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan seemed to bear the brunt of the onslaught, though similar scenes unfolded in Queens and in Upper Manhattan.

As the high tide arrived around 8 p.m., with the waterfront already battered by hours of winds and powerful currents brought on by Hurricane Sandy, the East River rose over South Street and flooded into Wall Street, where cars were inundated—and some appeared to be floating. Their alarms went off with blaring klaxons and flashing lights until the water silenced the alarms. The rising tide lifted the old sailing ship Peking so high that its waterline was flush with the street.

At the Battery, the water level was at 10.7 feet as of 7:20 p.m., breaking the record of 10 feet set by Hurricane Donna in 1960.

Power was shut off in Lower Manhattan by Consolidated Edison officials who hoped underground equipment would fare better if it was shut down before it was swamped with the salty water. One by one, entire blocks went dark. Witnesses saw occasional bursts of orange flame and sparks: water hitting electrical lines. On West Houston Street, the Hudson River reached Greenwich Street. Further uptown, entire swaths of the West Side Highway were underwater, and the Fire Department said there was six feet of water at Second Avenue and 96th Street—a block from the East River.

West Street was a torrent of seawater smelling pungently of sewage, from the submerged Battery Park underpass north to the Freedom Tower. Nearly every window south of Liberty Street went dark. “The lights flickered and then they just went out at 7:35,” said Laura Dotolo, 40, a handbag designer who lives near Battery Park. She and her husband opted not to evacuate and would ride out the storm using candles and flashlights.

North and east, Avenue C was flooded with water pouring in from the East River. Cars could be seen floating south. Kori Burkholder, 40, a product marketing manager, watched the storm surge from her apartment, which also lost power. “It’s crazy, the whole avenue is flooded and the cars are 85 percent flooded,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Police cars parked in front of the police precinct on East 7th Street were marooned, with water up to the windows. Water poured into the entryway of 384 East 10th Street, where the front door is a few steps below the sidewalk and the corridor inside the building was filled with water that looked two to three feet deep.

As striking and sudden as the floods were in Lower Manhattan, the black, brackish waters seemed to come on even faster in Red Hook, which has a water table so high that power and phone lines are positioned above ground; here the evening high tide came on with terrifying force.

In the morning, the harbor lapped a long pier and seeped toward the cobblestone streets, where a Civil War-era brick building had been converted to artists’ studios. The community falls almost entirely within Zone A, for which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered mandatory evacuations Sunday afternoon, and families with young children had mostly departed.

Throughout the day, the pioneer spirit that has brought chicken coops, beehives and funky bars to a once-desolate industrial stretch of Brooklyn was on full display, with residents hoisting Brooklyn Lager and goblets of red wine.

At Fort Defiance, a restaurant-bar where the biggest seller was the $10 Irish coffee, the owner, St. John Frizell, 39, was getting ready to haul some cases of wine and food up from the basement in preparation for the storm.

But not before topping off a patron’s glass of Chinon. “I’m so glad you’re open,” cooed the petite, bespectacled customer, to which Mr. Frizell replied, “Will you please tell my mother that?”

By 6 p.m., the water had already returned to the morning’s high tide level—but with two hours to go until evening high tide.

And then, around 7:30 p.m., it came rolling over the bulkheads and furiously raced down the streets. A caravan of trucks, including a utility truck from National Grid, careened down the streets just in front of the rushing waters, which quickly rose to the level of the fenders of parked trucks.

In the darkness brought on by the power failures, illuminated by the occasional sparking of falling overhead wires, the area around the popular ball fields became a lake. A few blocks away, a geyser of water gushed upward like a fountain from a storm sewer in Red Hook on Hicks Street, right by the Red Hook Public Houses. Near the Ikea on Beard Street, water had reached the half-story mark.

The main thoroughfare, Van Brunt Street, became a fast-moving river.

At 10 p.m., though high tide had passed, the waters showed little signs of receding. Nelson Toridio, 52, waded out ahead of his family of five—after the waters lapped the front steps of their apartment building, his wife insisted the family leave, so they did, in the cold waters, belongings held aloft as they made their way across Hamilton Avenue to their car.

Aristedes Valentine, 49, who lives in Red Hook housing, was worried about his car—others were underwater, up to their roofs. His girlfriend, who lives in another building, implored him not to go out. “It’s only a car,” she said. “It’s not worth risking your life.” But he went. He stepped outside, saw the downed power lines, and paused, in fear. Then he saw teenagers wading through, so he went, wading up to his thighs until he got to his prize Murano, which was safe. But his thighs were cramping from the cold and he was shivering. He should have evacuated, he conceded, “but now it’s too late.”

Late at night, Mr. Frizell, the owner of Fort Defiance, knew his restaurant was in bad shape. He knew Fort Defiance took water, he said, that water flooded the basement with its tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of compressors and other equipment. He relayed the bad news to fellow business owners in the area, who had evacuated but were anxiously awaiting news. “I’ve had to give a lot of bad news to people tonight,” he said.

Peter Waldman, a glassblower whose studio is across from the Fairway market, a block from the water, spent Monday gauging his safety in inches. He wanted to safeguard his studio and also his car—which he was now marooned in at the highest point of the street. He would have to wade through a foot of water to get to the studio, but he said that finally, around 10:15 p.m., the waters were beginning to recede.

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Giuliano D. writes:

The last sentence in the article you cite reads, “The waters were beginning to recede.” How Biblical. Send out the dove.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 30, 2012 08:50 AM | Send

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