Torrential downpours from a faded tropical storm inundated the tri-state area on Friday, forcing evacuations, toppling trees, cutting power to thousands and washing out roads during a snarled morning commute.
The storm that killed five people in North Carolina on Thursday soaked a great swath of the Northeast by the Friday morning commute, including New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey. Flights coming into LaGuardia Airport were delayed three hours and traffic coming into Manhattan was delayed by up to an hour under a pounding rain.
Motorists and pedestrians coped with sheets of rain, poor visibility, slick roads and strong wind gusts as they made their way to work early Friday. Speed restrictions are currently in effect for the Tappan Zee Bridge. Motorists are supposed to maintain speeds no higher than 35 miles per hour and tractor-trailers are supposed to take alternate routes.
"Its terrible. I've never seen it this bad," said motorist Maria Scognamiglio on New York's Long Island, an area plagued by storm-related road closures. She said a three-mile trip took her about 90 minutes.
In Levittown, 24 students had to be rescued by fire fighters when their bus became stranded on a flooded-out Loring Road. They were evacuated via the rear emergency exit and then transported to another bus on higher ground.
The National Weather Service has issued flood and wind advisories for the area. Sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph were predicted, with gusts of 40 to 50 mph. The Weather Service said wind gusts, combined with soggy soil, could cause trees to topple.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole also battered Staten Island hard, leaving nearly 1,0000 customers in Bay Terrace and Great Kills without power and numerous roads floaded. And as of 11 a.m., the Long Island Power Authority reported 4,715 customers without power.
Forecasters expect the weather to gradually clear by Friday night. Most areas will likely get about 2 to 4 inches of rain, with 6 to 9 inches possible in certain locations.
At least, the heavy rain of the past two days is filling up New Jersey's reservoirs and easing fears of a drought.
State climatologist Dave Robinson calls remnants from Tropical Storm Nicole "enormously helpful."
Robinson says he wouldn't be surprised if the state Environmental Protection Department lifts the drought watch that the state has been under since August.
In general, the heaviest rains fell along the western part of the state. Communities in Warren County got more than 7 inches.
Robinson says the fact that rivers and streams were so low due to the drought actually saved New Jersey from serious flooding. He says had that not been the case, the Delaware River would be experiencing "historic flooding" Friday.