Since 1970 (thru 2021), more than thirty 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, Sandy in 2012, and Ida in 2021. And 2004 was noteworthy for having three tropical storms that flooded New York in the month of September (2020 had three, but over the course of 13-1/2 weeks). These tropical systems have lashed the area as early as the first week of June and as late as late October, but September is by far the month when the majority have struck. The longest stretch with no tropical systems visiting the area is five years (1986-1990)
Although tropical systems often cause flooding and wind damage, nor'easters can wreak as much, if not more, havoc. When tropical storms reach this far north they are in the process of weakening, while nor'easters are usually gaining strength at this latitude. To read about some of New York's memorable nor'easters click here. The hurricanes and tropical storms discussed below are listed in chronological order. (Please note that three named storms that had no impact on New York are included because they were originally expected to affect us.)
Rain from tropical storm Doria moved in shortly before daybreak on Aug. 27, 1971, and continued through early evening. Rain was heaviest between 1:00 and 3:00 PM, when 1.76" poured down. In total, 4.16" was measured - a record for the date. Wind gusts of 40-50 mph accompanied the rain. Then, after a break of about four hours, a second round of rain moved in on Aug. 28 between 1-6 AM. 1.80" fell, with more than half (1.11") falling in the hour between 3-4 AM. In total, Doria produced 5.96" of rain in Central Park. Rainfall amounts were even greater in New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.
On Sept. 14, 1971, less than three weeks after Doria, tropical storm Heidi brought heavy rain to the area. Between 4-9 AM and 2-4 PM, 3.76" of rain poured down. Today's amount was 0.06" shy of the record for the date.
Rain and gusty winds from the remnants of what was Hurricane Agnes moved through the area on June 22, 1972, mostly between 7 AM-7 PM. By the standards of tropical systems, rainfall wasn't particularly heavy as just 1.19" was measured. This paled in comparison to the catastrophic rains of 8-12 inches that Agnes dumped on parts of New York state and Pennsylvania. Although the main thrust of the storm was today, wraparound rain would fall tomorrow and on the morning of June 25, delivering an additional 1.39".
Hurricane Belle made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Jones Beach around midnight on Sunday, Aug. 9, 1976. A little more than four inches of rain fell, much of it between 10 PM 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 as we made our way through northern New Jersey. Fortunately, because the eye was 75-100 miles to the east, we escaped any high winds.
The remnants of tropical storm David moved through between 4 AM and daybreak on Sept. 6, 1979, with 50-mph wind gusts and 1.22" of rain. When 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 US landfall in Georgia, it was considerably weaker.
Rain from tropical storm Dean moved through during the early morning of Sept. 30, 1983. 2.64" fell between 3-8 AM, but the bulk of it poured down in the hour between 6:30-7:30, when 2.05" was measured. Today's rainfall was comparable to the amount that fell between Sept. 1-29.
Hurricane Gloria made landfall on Long Island near the Nassau/Suffolk county line on Sept. 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 double click here.)
Powerful category 4 Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Charleston, SC overnight on Sept. 22, 1989, and the New York metro area was prepared for 5-10 inches of rain when the storm's remnants moved up the coast. However, the region was 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 Sept. 14-20. What the City did experience was warm and humid conditions.
Hurricane Bob struck the eastern end of Long Island on Aug. 19, 1991, and then struck southeastern New England and Cape Cod. The impact on New York City was heavy rain, mostly between 3 AM-noon, that amounted to 2.53".
Rain and wind from tropical storm Bertha moved in late on July 12, 1996 (a Friday), and continued until mid-afternoon on July 13. About two inches of rain fell and was accompanied by winds of 30-45 mph. Western New Jersey and the lower Hudson River valley had the heaviest rain, picking up between three and seven inches.
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.
On July 24, 1997 the remnants of hurricane Danny dumped 3.75" of rain, the rainiest 24-hour period on record for the month of July in New York. (Rain that fell after midnight brought the storm's total rainfall to 4.62".) Rain was heaviest between 8:21-9:21 PM when 0.94" fell. With winds out of the east/northeast, it was also a very cool day; the high of 68°/low of 58° was fifteen degrees below average.
Tropical storm Floyd flooded the area with 5.02" inches of rain on Sept. 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 8 AM and 1 PM, but an additional 0.76" fell from a final band of heavy rain that moved through between 6-7 PM. 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 US history.
Heavy rain (3.77") from tropical storm Frances flooded the area on Sept. 8, 2004 shortly before the morning rush hour (most fell between 4-7 AM). 1.76" fell between 5-6 AM. Frances' effects were felt here three days after it made landfall as a slow-moving category 2 hurricane on Florida's east coast.
2.18" of rain fell during the morning of Sept. 18, 2004, most of it between 8-10 AM, 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).
Three weeks after the remnants of Frances, and ten days after Ivan, the remnants of a third tropical storm, Hurricane Jeanne, moved through on Sept. 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.
Sept. 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-70s).
After beginning the night before, nearly four inches of rain was dumped on the City 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.
Tropical storm Hanna dumped 3.54" of rain on Sept. 6, 2008, mostly between 3-9 PM. Rain was heaviest between 5-6 PM when 0.97" poured down. As a hurricane, Hanna devastated Haiti and killed more than 500. It made landfall in the US near Myrtle Beach, SC. The rainfall Hanna dumped on New York was the biggest 24-hour soaker of the year, and the most in sixteen months. It was also a record rainfall for the date.
Hurricane Earl brought only overcast skies and muggy conditions to the New York area, but it lashed the Eastern end of Long Island on Sept. 3, 2010. Then, as a downgraded tropical storm, it made a direct hit on Cape Cod.
During the evening of Aug. 27, 2011 wind and rain from Hurricane Irene began lashing the area as it slowly made its way north from the North Carolina and Virginia coasts. By midnight, 2.88" of rain had fallen, and 3.99" fell the morning of the 28th. As a precaution, New York'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 measured in Central Park. 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 gust of 62-mph was recorded at Central Park), downing more than 2,000 trees along City streets and in parks.
A week and a half after Irene, the moisture from tropical storm Lee, combined with a cold front, dropped 5.33" of rain over the three-day period Sept. 6-8, 2011. Rainfall amounts of up to ten inches flooded Maryland, central and eastern Pennsylvania, and much of the same terrain in New York State flooded by Irene.
One year after a pre-Halloween snowstorm crippled the area, superstorm Sandy struck on Oct. 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 that Manhattan had never experienced before.
A soaking rain fell throughout the day on June 7, 2013 as the remnants of tropical storm Andrea moved up the coast. Rain came down especially hard after dark. In total, 4.16" fell, a record for the date - and the second greatest June rainstorm on record (an additional 0.43" fell after midnight on 6/8). This was the second earliest tropical system to affect New York in the 1970-2020 period; the earliest was tropical storm Barry on June 3-4, 2007. Because of the rain and cloud cover, today's high only reached 63°, thirteen degrees below average.
Although hurricane Arthur put somewhat of a damper on the 4th of July in 2014, New York was on the northwest fringe as the system raced northeastward from the North Carolina coast. Through mid-afternoon skies were gray with light showers, but just 0.14" was measured. (By contrast, severe thunderstorms on the evenings of 7/2 and 7/3 produced 2.74" of rain.) It was a breezy day, with winds occasionally gusting to 30 mph. By the time Macy's fireworks exhibition began skies were clear. However, conditions further east, on Fire Island and in the Hamptons, were worse.
FLORENCE & GORDON
The remnants of Hurricane Florence, which brought disastrous flooding to southeastern North Carolina a few days earlier, synched-up with a cold front and brought heavy rain during the afternoon of Sept. 18, 2018, producing 1.16". When the rain began the dew point was at a sticky 74°. This rain came eight days after the remnants from Hurricane Gordon brought 1.38" of rain (but it fell over the course of nearly 24 hours).
This was the second tropical system named Barry to visit the New York area. Its moisture arrived during the evening of July 18, 2019, producing 1.82" of rain between 8 PM and midnight, with more than half of it pouring down in the initial hour (this was more rain than had fallen in the previous three weeks). Before the rain arrived, the afternoon had been hot and steamy, with a high of 93°, dew points in the low-to-mid-70s and a heat index of 105°. Barry 2.0's rainfall was half the amount that fell from Barry 1.0 in 2007.
The northernmost bands of showers from hurricane Dorian moved through the City during the afternoon and early evening of Sept. 6, 2019, with most of the minimal rainfall pouring down between 3-4 PM (when 0.27" was measured). With the storm situated to the south-southeast of the metro area, winds were from the east-northeast (peak gust in Central Park was 29 mph), drawing in unseasonably cool air. Before the rain moved in at lunchtime the mercury rose to 67°, but then dropped to 58° by evening. This was the first time since mid-June that a high and low were in the 60s/50s.
This quickly developing tropical storm zipped from North Carolina to the Jersey Shore on July 10, 2020, soaking New York with 2.54" of rain, with most of it pouring down between 1:30-4:30 PM. This amount was a record for the date, and the greatest one-day rainfall since May 2018. The temperature and dew point were in the 70s all day long, giving the air a pronounced tropical feel. This was the fourth "F"-named tropical system since 1970 to affect NYC, but it was the only one that didn't strike in September.
After making landfall late last night in North Carolina as a hurricane, Isaias sped through the mid-Atlantic on Aug. 4, 2020. Because the center of the storm moved further west than was anticipated, New York City was spared heavy rain, but winds gusted to 48 mph in Central Park and 78 mph at Battery Park City in lower Manhattan (and 68, 69 and 70 mph at Newark, LaGuardia and JFK airports. respectively). There were extensive power outages caused by downed trees. While just 0.55" of rain fell from daybreak to lunchtime in Central Park (most between 11 AM-noon), four inches+ flooded eastern Pennsylvania. And although it wasn't associated with Isaias, a severe thunderstorm late last night dumped the same amount of rain in about 30 minutes as fell this morning.
Moisture from the remnants of hurricane Delta moved into the area on Oct. 12, 2020 and produced a steady, but light, all-day rain that amounted to nearly one inch (0.96"); an additional 0.34" fell the following day. Winds out of the northeast, gusting between 25-30 mph, kept the temperature unseasonably cool. The high of 57° (which occurred shortly after midnight) was the first maximum reading in the 50s since 5/9.
12 hours after the City was flooded by a torrential downpour during yesterday’s evening rush hour, heavy rain from the remnants of hurricane Elsa made this morning's commute a challenge (July 9, 2021). 1.79” of rain fell this morning, largely between 3-9AM. (Elsa produced significantly more rain over Long Island, largely in the 3-4” range.) By afternoon, the sun broke through and the temperature rose into the mid-80s. This tropical system moved through the area one day before the one-year anniversary of tropical storm Fay lashing the metro area.
Hurricane Henri was a huge rainmaker for the New York area. In fact, the City received much more rain than areas that were closer to the storm’s center. Between the evening of Aug. 21, 2021, when the rain first arrived, through early afternoon on Aug. 23, 8.19” of rain fell. All three days had more than inch of rain (4.45”, 2.67”, and 1.07”), with more than half of the total falling in the storm's first five hours (when Henri was still a few hundred miles to the southeast, and 16 hours away from landfall in Rhode Island). The rain was made a bit more bearable, due to the fact that there were no winds of tropical storm strength. Henri's rainfall was the most from a hurricane/tropical storm since the "Great Atlantic Hurricane" of Sept. 12-14, 1944 flooded Central Park with 9.40".
Although Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana four days ago as a category 4 storm, had weakened to a tropical depression when it arrived in the Mid-Atlantic on Sept. 1, 2021, what energy remained packed quite a punch as New York was flooded by extreme rainfall and lashed by tropical storm-force winds (causing more disruptions than Hurricane Henri did less than two weeks ago). After a first round of moisture brought light showers shortly after sunrise, there was a lull until 5 PM when heavy rain moved in, becoming torrential a few hours later. By midnight, 7.13" had been measured in Central Park – comparable to seven weeks of rain, and two-and-a-half inches more than a typical September sees in its entirety.
At its most intense, between 9-10 PM, more than three inches poured down. Because of this excessive rate of rainfall, the National Weather Service issued, for the first time, a Flash Flood Emergency for NYC, and subway service was suspended throughout the City. Shockingly, thirteen residents died from flood-related causes in the five boroughs (and 25 in NJ). Unlike Henri, which wasn’t a wind producer, Ida’s visit was accompanied by winds that gusted between 35-50 mph.