NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. – New York’s heaviest downpour on record dumped a summer’s worth of rain on parts of Long Island in a matter of hours Wednesday, swamping highways before drivers could escape, flooding basements and causing at least one death.
The 13.26 inches recorded at MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma during the morning was more than the area’s normal combined total for June, July and August of 11.75 inches.
It smashed the previous state record for 24-hour rainfall of 11.6 inches near the Catskills town of Tannersville during Tropical Storm Irene three years ago.
What happened today was unprecedented, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told reporters Wednesday outside the North Babylon firehouse where dozens of stranded drivers were brought for shelter during the height of the storm.
Volunteer firefighters in communities across Long Island used trucks and equipment usually used to fight brush fires to rescue stranded drivers.
On the Southern State Parkway in North Babylon, firefighters encountered about 50 vehicles either stuck in the rising waters or pulled off to an elevated apron on the side of the highway.
We had occupants climbing out of windows because they couldn’t open their doors, said Lt. Timothy Harrington, the first firefighter on the scene.
Some of the water was over the vehicles’ roofs. I’ve never seen anything like this before.