NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. — A storm dumped an entire summer’s worth of rain on parts of Long Island, leading to a fatal crash Wednesday and stranding drivers on roads flooded with door-handle-high water.
A person died when an SUV was hit by a tractor-trailer at 4:40 a.m. on the Long Island Expressway near Dix Hills, during the height of the storm, according to Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke. He said it appeared the SUV was driving slowly when it was hit by the larger vehicle.
The person who died was in the SUV; the body was burned beyond recognition, said Burke.
The staggering rain total, over 13 inches, was recorded from Tuesday evening until Wednesday morning at an airport in the hamlet of Ronkonkoma in Islip. That was more than the area’s normal total for June, July and August of 11.75 inches, said Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service. More than 5 inches of it fell in just a one-hour period, from 5 to 6 a.m. Wednesday, Pollina said.
The flooding wreaked havoc on the morning commute.
“Many roads are flooded and driving is treacherous,” Riverhead officials said in a statement. “There are numerous abandoned vehicles.”
Parts of the Southern State Parkway were closed.
“It was up to my waist,” said James Piano of Islip Terrace, who was rescued in North Babylon by firefighters after his truck was swamped. “That little Miata over there was floating in the middle lane, literally floating.”
By midmorning, the water subsided there and traffic began moving again along a road surface coated with a slippery-looking film of oil, dirt and grass.
For many, though, the headaches remained. Several dozen abandoned cars were strewn along the grassy shoulder.
Juan Ortiz of Brentwood was standing on an overpass next to his disabled vehicle waiting for a friend, six hours after he became stranded.
At first, he had navigated puddles on the parkway “with no problem.” But then, “out of nowhere, I passed underneath this overpass. … I just ran into a lake” about 3 to 4 feet deep.
In Nesconset, fire crews with boats rescued drivers, according to WPIX.
The storm that passed over the Northeast left dumped varying amounts of rain.
New York City ranged from under an inch in Central Park to over 3 inches at Kennedy Airport.
But parts of New Jersey also got more than 7 inches of rain. Several homes were evacuated in Millville, New Jersey, because of flooding.
Baltimore got 6.3 inches of rain, the highest total since 1933 and the second-highest since measurements were first taken in 1871.
The same system dumped rain on Michigan earlier in the week. Portions of several Detroit-area freeways remained closed Wednesday morning as crews worked to remove mud, trash, abandoned vehicles and other debris.
Flooding has been reported in Rhode Island, in Providence, Cranston and elsewhere as the storm hits southern New England with rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches an hour.
The National Weather Service is warning of flash flooding mid-afternoon Wednesday in parts of Providence and Bristol counties. The service says there is the potential for flash floods in the rest of the state.