Torrential rain ravages Gowanus

Torrential rain ravages Gowanus
Courtesy of Adrienne Zhao

A Monday night downpour cut through the searing heat that plagued Brooklyn since Friday, only to incite flash floods in low lying neighborhoods across the borough, drowning cars and inundating homes in murky, knee-high water.

One Gowanus driver said she was amazed at the floodwater’s extraordinary speed, which managed to submerge her Prius in mere minutes.

“I went to take a shower and when I got out it was flooded,” said Eunice Lee, who parked on Fourth Avenue near Carroll Street on the border of Park Slope Monday. “It happened within 10 minutes.”

Lee’s partner, Jason Rivera, tried save the vehicle upon noticing the flood, but the water was already too high by the time he reached the car, and the pair watched helplessly from a nearby fire escape as the deluge washed away construction barriers, carried away trash bags strewn along the busy thoroughfare, and engulfed their hybrid.

Naturally, the couple’s son found the whole spectacle hilarious, according to Lee.

“Our son thought it was funny and wanted to go swimming,” Lee said. “When you can’t do anything, you just kind of take it in and you just wait.”

Another motorist discovered the floodwater had swept his Beamer from a parking spot on nearby Carroll Street and sent the luxury German import slamming into a nearby street lamp.

“I came by this morning… and the car was up against the light post,” said Thomas Flaherty, who was in town from North Carolina visiting his daughter in Park Slope.

The Southerner bailed out his car with a bucket and a cup, but his engine coughed up smoke when he went to start it, and his insurance company later told him the vehicle was most likely totaled.

Car owners shared their misery with nearby businesses, and soon-to-open Fourth Avenue watering hole Gowanus Gardens took some water damage, according to the husband of the bar’s owner, who found the establishment’s basement transformed into an underground pool.

Bad trip: North Carolinian Thomas Flaherty found his Beamer drenched with water Tuesday morning after leaving it parked there on the weekend.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

“The basement was really bad — like three feet of water,” said Danny Peña.

Peña’s efforts to drain the basement were frustrated by passing cars, which continued slosh water into the cellar, and he was forced to wait for the downpour to subside and for city workers to start draining the floodwater before he could make any real progress.

“The city people came, they cleaned up the sewers, and that’s when everything started going down,” he said.

The sky dumped nearly three inches of rain per hour in the borough during last night’s storm, which rolled down Carroll Street to the low-lying Fourth Avenue, overwhelming the thoroughfare’s drainage system, according to Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Edward Timbers.

“Fourth Avenue sits at the bottom of Park Slope – so stormwater flows downhill from Prospect Park West all the way to Fourth Avenue,” Timbers said in an emailed statement.

Fortunately, the flood consisted entirely of stormwater, according to Timbers, who insisted that water from the fetid Gowanus Canal did not spill onto the streets.

“This was all stormwater. Contrary to some reports, there was no tidal flooding or breach of the Gowanus Canal,” he said.

The agency toured the area with Borough President Eric Adams Tuesday afternoon and showed him how they plan to upgrade the area’s drainage early next year, according to Timbers.

“DEP toured the area with Borough President Adams this afternoon and pointed out how a drainage upgrade slated to begin early next year will improve conditions along Fourth Avenue during rain storms,” he said.

The brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods weren’t the only parts of the borough submerged by the torrential rains, as residents of Borough Park, Williamsburg, and Crown Heights found themselves wading through water and bailing out basements that evening, according to Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

For all the grief Monday’s storm caused due to flooding, it came as a relief to millions of Brooklyn residents who suffered through a three-day heat wave — which saw temperatures soar to well over 100 degrees with humidity — and was a godsend to thousands of Brooklynites caught in Sunday night’s blackout, many of whom remained without power Tuesday morning.

And throughout the heat wave, numbered subway lines were shut down citywide Friday night, only to cut out a second time in Brooklyn during the Monday evening rush hour.

Gowanusaur Enuice Lee watched her car get submerged in the torrential rainfall from the safety of her upper-floor apartment fire escape.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.