NEW YORK (Reuters) -Heavy rains soaked the densely populated U.S. Northeast on Tuesday, flooding roadways and triggering traffic accidents in the first phase of storm system expected to lash the region with gale-force winds and tidal surges before the Halloween weekend.
Overnight downpours that drenched the Eastern seaboard from Washington, D.C., to New York City persisted throughout the morning, and commuters in New Jersey reported vehicle crashes on roadways resembling rivers, weather watchers said.
Heading into Massachusetts, the Nor’easter was expected to blast coastal New England overnight with 60-mile-per-hour (95 km-per-hour) winds that forecasters said could unleash a storm surge flooding 3 feet (1 meter) above sea level.
The intensifying storm was being driven by a rotating low-pressure system churning up the coast, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported.
“It’s rapidly deepening – it’s going to be pretty windy overnight as it heads toward Cape Cod,” NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec of the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, told Reuters.
A storm warning was posted along several hundred miles of the Northeastern coastline from Delaware to central Maine.
Despite Tuesday’s deluge, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority said commuter rail and subway services were running as usual with only scattered morning rush-hour delays. In New Jersey, bus and rail service were mostly running normally with weather-related delays reported on only one train line.
Tuesday’s wet, windy weather marked the first wave of a two-phase storm system targeting the Northeast, Oravec said. The first was expected to last through Thursday, dumping up to 3 inches (8 cm) of rain. The second was expected to arrive Friday and remain through Saturday, pouring on 2 more inches (5 cm) of rain, he said.
“If we add up both storms over the next couple of days, we could have totals easily of 3-4 inches,” Oravec said. “The worst rains will be over by Halloween (Sunday) morning. It might be OK for trick-or-treating.”
Even before the first raindrops hit the ground, New York Governor Kathy Hochul declared a disaster emergency Monday evening for parts of the state that included the New York City area and Albany region. The declaration empowers the government to implement policies it would not normally be permitted to impose for the safety and protection of citizens.
New York state was stunned early last month when torrential rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida fell with record intensity, inundating streets and subways. At least 17 people died, mostly in New York City, where victims drowned in flooded basement apartments. In all, the storm killed at last 50 people, including 27 in New Jersey.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy also declared a state of emergency hours ahead of the rain that took effect at 8 p.m. EDT on Monday (midnight Tuesday GMT).
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lincoln Feast.)