Since 1976 sixteen hurricanes and tropical storms have made their presence known in the New York City area, with the most serious being Gloria in 1985, Floyd in 1999, Irene in 2011 and Sandy one year later. And 2004 was noteworthy for having three tropical storms that flooded New York in the month of September.
Although tropical systems often cause flooding and wind damage, nor'easters can wreak as much, if not more, havoc. When tropical storms reach this farth north they are in the process of weakening while nor'easters are usually gaining strength at this latitude. To read about some of NYC's memorable nor'easters click here. The hurricanes and tropical storms discussed below are listed in chronological order.
Belle - Hurricane Belle made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Jones Beach at around midnight on Sunday, August 9, 1976. A little more than four inches of rain fell, much of it between 10PM and midnight when 2.37" poured down. This deluge is memorable for me because it happened on the evening my brother and I drove from Pittsburgh to New York for my first visit to the Big Apple - and we were clueless about the hurricane. I remember being alarmed by the blinding sheets of rain coming down as we made our way through northern New Jersey. Fortunately, because the eye was 75-100 miles to our east, we escaped any high winds.
David - The remnants of tropical storm David moved through during the morning of September 6, 1979, dropping 1.22" of rain, most which was over by 8AM. While it was a hurricane David was one of the most powerful on record, the only category 5 storm to strike the Dominican Republic, where it killed thousands. By the time it made U.S. landfall in Georgia it was considerably weaker.
Gloria - Hurricane Gloria made landfall on Long Island near the Nassau/Suffolk border on September 27, 1985 and dumped heavy rain in NYC during the morning (3.13", a record for the date), with most falling between 8:30-11:30. The sky cleared around 1:00 and the rest of the afternoon was beautiful. The bountiful rain helped put a dent in the year's rainfall deficit. (To read my first-person account of the storm doubleclick here.)
Hugo - Powerful category 4 Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina overnight on September 22, 1989 and the NYC metro area was prepared for 5-10 inches of rain when the storm's remnants moved up the coast. However, we were spared when the storm moved inland instead and stayed well to the west. This was a big relief since six inches of rain had already fallen between September 14-20. What we did experience was warm and humid conditions.
Bob - Hurricane Bob struck the eastern end of Long Island on August 19, 1991 and then struck southeastern New England and Cape Cod. The impact on New York City was heavy rain, mostly between 2AM-noon, that amounted to 2.53".
Edouard - An early forecast caused concern on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in 1996 when Hurricane Edouard was predicted to make landfall on Long Island. However, the storm stayed away and the only effect from the hurricane was heavy surf, especially out in the Hamptons.
Floyd - Tropical storm Floyd flooded the area with 5.02" inches of rain on September 16, 1999, forcing many businesses to close early and causing service on some subway lines to be suspended because of track flooding. Today's rainfall, a record for the date, was an inch more than we had for the entire summer. More than half of it fell between 7AM and noon, but an additional 0.76" fell from a final band of heavy rain that moved through between 6-7PM. Rainfall in Newark and Philadelphia exceeded seven inches. Floyd produced historic flooding in North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey and was one of the ten most destructive natural disasters in U.S. history.
Frances - Heavy rain (3.77") from tropical storm Frances flooded the area on September 8, 2004 shortly before morning rush hour (most fell between 3-6AM). 1.76" fell between 4-5AM. Frances' effects were felt here three days after it made landfall as a slow-moving category 2 hurricane on Florida's East coast.
Ivan - 2.18" of rain fell during the morning of September 18, 2004, most of it between 7-9AM, as the remnants of Hurricane Ivan moved through. Ivan's rainfall was much heavier in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Damage wise, the storm was one of the five costliest hurricanes (until 2010's Hurricane Irene pushed it down to sixth).
Jeanne - Three weeks after the remnants of Frances and ten days after Ivan, the remnants of a third tropical storm, Hurricane Jeanne, moved through on September 28, 2004. By the time its rain ended the following morning 4.66" had fallen, the most from a storm system since tropical storm Floyd dumped 5.44" in 1999. The rain that fell today, 3.84", was a record for the date and brought the month's total to 11.41" making this the rainiest September since 1934.
Ernesto - September 2, 2006 was the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and it was cool and wet as tropical storm Ernesto moved through, dropping 1.24" of rain; the day's high was just 66, thirteen degrees below average. Sunday and Monday, however, were very nice, but a bit cooler than average (mid-70's).
Barry - After beginning the night before, nearly four inches of rain was dumped on NYC as the remnants of tropical storm Barry moved through on June 4, 2007. The rain was over by noon. The amount that fell from the storm was twice as much as fell during the entire month of May.
Hanna - Tropical storm Hanna dumped 3.54" of rain on September 6, 2008, mostly between 2-8PM. Rain was heaviest between 4-5PM when 0.97" poured down. As a hurricane Hanna devastated Haiti and killed more than 500. It made landfall in the U.S. near Myrtle Beach, SC. The rainfall Hanna dumped on NYC was the biggest 24-hour soaker of the year and the most in sixteen months. It was also a record rainfall for the date.
Earl - Hurricane Earl brought only overcast skies and muggy conditions to the New York area but it lashed the Eastern end of Long Island on September 3, 2010. Then, as a downgraded tropical storm, it made a direct hit on Cape Cod.
Irene - During the evening of August 27, 2011 wind and rain from Hurricane Irene began lashing the area as it slowly made its way north from the North Carolina and Virgina coasts. By midnight 2.88" of rain had fallen and 3.99" fell the morning of the 28th. As a precaution NYC's transportation system was shut down at noon and 350,000 residents were evacuated from low-lying areas.
Irene dumped a total of 6.87" of rain, one of the greatest 24-hour rain totals in NYC history. This tropical deluge brought August's total rainfall to 18.95" - the most to fall in any month. In addition to the flooding rains, winds gusted between 50-70 mph (a 60 mph gust was recorded at Central Park), downing more than 2,000 trees on City streets and in parks.
Sandy - One year after a pre-Halloween snowstorm crippled the area, superstorm Sandy struck on October 29, 2012 between noon and midnight. It lived up to its advance hype - and then some. Although heavy rain wasn't an issue (less than an inch fell), 60-80 mph wind gusts and a record storm surge wreaked havoc on New York's transportation system and power grid. The storm surge struck not only at high tide (8:30 PM) but during a full moon, creating flooding in Manhattan never experienced before.