By Alex P. Vidal
“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.”— Roger Miller
AT 8:10 in the morning on September 29 (Friday), I was in the wrong avenue at the wrong time.
Walking from Upper East Manhattan’s 67 Street on Park Avenue going to the Midtown Manhattan’s 51st and First avenue, I got stranded miserably on Lexington Avenue.
That morning, remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia came back barreling toward New York, New Jersey, Connecticut with heavy rainfall that soaked the tristate region and brought a record-breaking flood.
Ophelia’s force triggered a state of emergency that shut down the New York City subway, roads and airport terminals. City officials described the situation as the wettest day since Hurricane Ida.
During the first 24 hours of Ida, more than 7 inches of rain fell in Central Park. Friday had nearly 6 inches the same period, bringing Ophelia close to 2021’s catastrophic rainfall. Ophelia actually dumped more rain on some parts of the city, data from the National Weather Service showed.
To compound the matter, I was unprepared for it; meaning, I didn’t have any umbrella or enough rain protection aside from my hood and cap.
I underestimated the bad weather that morning and paid dearly for it. The night before, I checked the weather on my phone and was warned of a “90 percent rain tomorrow” (September 29).
I had one backpack, a shoulder bag and was holding a grocery bag, where I kept my “water resistant” headphones after removing it from my head, on my right hand.
After a brief walk or after negotiating only six blocks, I noticed I was very wet, so I stopped on corner 61st Street and Lexington Avenue and stood under the canopy of a laundry shop. I realized I made a mistake of not bringing an umbrella.
Meteorologists said the city’s newest weather disaster had more in common with Ida than many may realize when it comes to how the deluge was born. Similar to Ida, the forecast had called for this rainfall a few days in advance, and the heaviest predictions locked into place by September 28 night.
Hoping the rain would simmer down, I walked fast until reaching the corner 59th Street and Lexington Avenue beside the Bloomingdale, a fixture of New York’s fashion.
There I found a subway that serves trains 4, 5, 6 and N, R, W. to Brooklyn (via Downtown Manhattan) and Bronx (via Uptown Manhattan). This was hours before the subway was shut down when water started to cascade underneath.
I walked from the Upper East to the Midtown on the same time and day every Friday for the past two years, and I thought there’s no way I’d spend $2.90 for a subway ride that would bring me one stop away to the corner 51st and Lexington Avenue.
The dithering proved to be my other bad move. Instead of slowing down, the rain, which had been pouring for several hours now, was getting stronger and there’s no sign it’s going to at least settle down.
Before I decided to dart my way inside the subway and take train 6, I was already soaking wet.
I thought the scenario would change when I reached the corner 51st and Lexington Avenue after springing up to the subway on street level. There, I realized my woes were far from over. It worsened.
In fact, it was there where I got stranded in real time; as heavy rain intensified, the water level had reached the sidewalks. I still needed to walk past three long blocks (Lexington to 3rd, 2nd, and finally 1St Avenue) before reaching my destination.
I carried out the only option left to finally end my misery: run across the street and enter the Duane Reade, a chain of pharmacy and convenience store.
There, I saw nine out of 10 customers queuing for umbrella. I joined the equally drenched to the bone herd and picked up a short umbrella worth $16.
To make the long story short, it was the umbrella that made my not-so-comfortable-and-easy walk to my final destination possible. Moral of the story: never underestimate the weather and always bring a small umbrella inside the backpack.
Gothamist said tropical storm systems are historically known to be flash flood makers when they encounter other weather fronts, through a process known as frontogenesis. But human-driven climate change has added extra moisture to the atmosphere, worsening what would have been manageable storms in the past.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)