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Storms deluge New York City, abruptly ending sweltering heat wave

Powerful storms hammered New York City on July 22, resulting in major flooding throughout the area. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Severe thunderstorms drenched New York City on Monday evening, bringing with them a deluge of rain.

Storms congealed into a stubborn cluster that parked over the city at the height of Monday’s evening commute, dropping close to two inches of rain. Rising waters surrounded cars in the gridlock and cascaded into the subway system.

The National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for New York City and adjacent New Jersey, where “numerous road closures with water rescues” were reported in East Newark.

Video from Brooklyn showed roads transformed into rivers with cars partially submerged.

Central Park received 1.66 inches of rain and JFK Airport 1.59 inches as the incoming storms held back the temperature at 87 degrees after both weekend days hit 99 degrees. La Guardia Airport picked up 1.24 inches, the drenching a welcome relief from triple digit heat on Sunday.

That was just the appetizer round, however. Another batch of frontal showers and embedded heavier storms swept in Tuesday morning.

“We had a lot of 24-hour rain totals topping 3½ inches,” said Tim Morrin, Observations Program Leader at the National Weather Service in New York. “The second batch wasn’t heavy thunderstorms, but we did have impressive rainfall rates.”

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, JFK was up to a 24-hour rain total of 3.52 inches. Their normal total for July sits just a hair higher at 4.08 inches. Staten Island measured 3.05 inches, while a total of 3.94 came down in Syosset on Long Island. A new flash flood warning was issued at 5:03 a.m. ­— right at the onset of the morning’s commute.

“Some pretty major thoroughfares were shut down this morning, like the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn,” said Morrin. “Most of the rain was exiting to the east by mid morning though, but a few additional showers are possible later on.”

It wasn’t just heavy rain that targeted the Big Apple. The storms also brought severe weather, including ping-pong-ball-size hail in Bergen County, N.J. Meanwhile, a gust to 75 mph rocked West Gilgo Beach, N.Y., on Monday night as a “bowing segment” of thunderstorm winds blasted through the shores of Long Island.

Over 800,000 customers were without power in the eastern United States because of the storms Monday evening, with New Jersey contributing nearly half of that number.

It’s the second time in barely a week that impressive flooding has targeted the tri-state area: 2.67 inches fell last Wednesday, part of the same waterlogged pattern that has brought a foot of rain to some New York boroughs in the past month.

Summertime flooding has been on the rise in New York in recent years. Aging infrastructure coupled with increasingly common heavy rain events has made urban flooding in the city a regular occurrence.

In just the past 60 years, New York’s average summertime rainfall has increased by 2½ inches. Moreover, the number of days with rainfall topping 2 inches has doubled in New York in the past hundred years. In a progressively warmer and wetter world, these sorts of events may just become the new normal.