Rain Winds Down, Flooding Threat Remains

A rainstorm that socked the region is winding down, but forecasters say more widespread flooding is yet to come in what has become the wettest March in city history.

Rivers from Maine down to New York aren't expected to crest until later Wednesday or perhaps Thursday. Rhode Island officials are bracing for what is expected to be the most severe flooding to hit the state in more than 100 years.

On Long Island, the Atlantic Ocean inundated a 20-mile stretch of oceanfront road in Southampton.

A mudslide in the Bronx interrupted service on the Metro-North commuter railroad, and flooding suspended service on a stretch of the Staten Island railway. The rising Sheldrake River in Mamaroneck closed an exit off Interstate 95.

City subways had no problems underground -- a train-yard in Coney Island was flooded but that didn't affect service. Manhattan bus drivers, however, and all the motorists out with them, were significantly slowed by the rain.

Even walking had to be done carefully. Street gutters turned into fast-flowing streams and saturated ground yielded water at every footstep.

In Rhode Island, which bore the brunt of the storm, residents were experiencing the worst flooding in more than 100 years.  Stretches of Interstate 95, the main route linking Boston to New York, were closed and could remain so for days

By late afternoon Tuesday, the month's total was 10.55 inches in Central Park, surpassing the record 10.54 inches set in 1983. Of this month's total, over 4 inches had fallen since Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

Records for the month were also set Tuesday at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in Queens and MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, as well as 9.92 inches in Bridgeport CT.

The big airports had weather delays of up to two hours. On the roads, several parkways were submerged in Westchester County, Brooklyn and Queens.

One man in his 70s drove past a barricade onto a flooded section of the Bronx River Parkway in Yonkers and had to be rescued from the roof of his pickup truck, Westchester County police spokesman Kieran O'Leary said.

Tony Sutton, commissioner of Westchester's Emergency Services agency, said crews were out making sure storm sewers weren't clogged.

Rain has been falling in the area since Sunday and was expected to persist into Wednesday. Some areas of Long Island received 6 to 7 inches in the storm.

High winds were scarce, though, and fears that falling trees would cause widespread power outages were unrealized as of midday. Both Con Ed and the Long Island Power Authority, which had to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people after a storm earlier this month, reported only minor problems.

That was little comfort to Carlo Lubrano, owner of the Piccola Bussola restaurant in Huntington, whose basement was flooded and had to be pumped.

"At least 4 to 5 inches came in through the door," he said, as he waited for a carpet cleaner to arrive. "The rain is just relentless. It's been days now. I want the sun to come out."

Winds or not, beach erosion continued to be a problem.

"We're getting beaten up once again," said Ronald Foley, regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. He said the beach at Robert Moses State Park was completely underwater during Tuesday morning's high tide, but had since receded.

Meanwhile officials and storm-weary residents in New Jersey are closely watching rivers that flooded earlier this month and are running high again.

Heavy rain veered to the east early Tuesday, sparing saturated rivers and streams in the Garden State. However, the storm has looped back a bit later in the day, bringing heavy downpours to central and parts of northern New Jersey.

That's prompted a spate of flood warnings for rivers and streams. Mostly minor flooding is expected along larger rivers, including the Passaic River at Pine Brook and Little Falls, the Raritan River at Bound Brook and Manville and the Saddle River at Lodi.

In Lincoln Park, N.J., Jurgen Baci, 9, played in the waters of the Pompton River that were overflowing his yard while his sister, Fiona, 5 watched from a few feet away.

"We moved here (2 years ago), we didn't know there was flooding," Jurgen told NBCNewYork, translating for his Father Neritan, who brought his family here from Albania.

There is no carpeting or furniture left in their home thanks to flooding two weeks ago. But the Baci's have nowhere else to go, so they decided to try to ride this latest flooding out.

Upstream in Wayne, Rasul Bizati also suffered through the flooding of two weeks ago. For this storm, he enlisted a neighbor to help his brand new replacement washer and dryer to higher ground with a hand truck.

"Just neighbors, we all stick together," said Tom Steuer, who lives just down the block.

In his garage, Bizati talked about the last flood "We actually founda fish lying down here and it was still alive."

Asked if he's ready to sell and move after five floods in six years, Bizati responded, "I'd love to but who's going to buy it now?"

With rain ending overnight, most streams are expected to fall below flood stage during the day Wednesday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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