MTA workers assess flood damage to train tracks Monday near...

MTA workers assess flood damage to train tracks Monday near Manitou in Putnam County. Earlier downpours had dumped 9 inches of rain over 24 hours, stranding 300 passengers on the Hudson Line in Manitou on Sunday. Credit: MTA via AP

Metro-North and Amtrak service was restored Wednesday, state officials announced, after historic rainfall washed out tracks and roads in the Hudson Valley earlier this week, knocking out passenger rail service and stranding drivers.

Crews worked around the clock to repair the damage to Metro-North’s Hudson and Harlem lines as well as Amtrak’s New York-to-Albany route.

Torrential downpours dumped 9 inches of rain over 24 hours, stranding 300 passengers on the Hudson Line in Manitou in Putnam County on Sunday.

“What this area went through with a thousand-year storm event over the past 72 hours was extraordinary. And for these lines to be open … is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was flanked by MTA chair and CEO Janno Lieber at Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday morning.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Metro-North and Amtrak service was restored Wednesday and shuttered roads in the Hudson Valley also were slated to reopen after historic rainfall last weekend.
  • Climate change will continue to threaten the stability of roads, bridges and transit systems, officials say.
  • But climate change can be slowed by reducing carbon emissions, and there are also strategies to minimize impacts to the region's vulnerable transportation network.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers removed fallen trees, mud and boulders from Metro-North tracks and also tracked outages.

Lieber thanked workers for their efforts.

“The MTA team stepped up once again to get the railroad back on track,” he said. 

State Department of Transportation workers also had cleared and were expected to reopen portions of U.S. 9W, U.S. 6 and Route 32.

"Because of the climate crisis, these weather emergencies are quickly becoming our new normal," Hochul said Wednesday.

A transit threat: climate change

While officials and experts called this a historic event, they warned that severe weather and extreme rainfall will become more prevalent due to climate change and rising temperatures. 

“One of the things that we're on the more certain side about is that we'll continue to see more heavy rainfalls,” said Jase Bernhardt, associate professor and director of Sustainability Studies at Hofstra University.

Bernhardt added that “flooding potential is the big thing for us around here.”

The flash flooding experienced over the weekend is dangerous because it doesn’t give people much time to prepare, Bernhardt said.

“It takes people by surprise, whether you're driving or if you're in a home. … It can create a host of problems,” Bernhardt said, and can have deadly consequences.

Floods on Sunday killed one woman in Orange County and also devastated other Northeast states.

But climate change can be slowed by reducing carbon emissions, and there are also strategies to minimize impacts to the region's vulnerable transportation network.

For example, vacant lots could be turned into grassy fields to help absorb extra rainfall, Bernhardt said.

Hydrologists and engineers also would need to study infrastructure and terrain and revamp the systems to handle more precipitation expected over the next decades, according to Klaus Jacob, special research scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“With climate change and that old infrastructure, there's a little bit of a mismatch here. And that mismatch shows up in washing out things when the culverts are not big enough and the water runs over the tracks … the same with the roads, embankments, and with our sewer lines and the cities that are not meant to take up all this extra rain,” Jacob said.

'A question of will and money'

Jacob said if investments aren’t made soon, damages will cost more later.

"Adaptation can be done. ... It all is a question of will and money," Jacob said.

To help beef up infrastructure, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday introduced the Resilient Transit Act that aims to add an additional source of funding to the Federal Transit Administration’s State of Good Repair Grants Program.

The legislation would authorize $300 million for every year from 2024 through 2027 for resilience improvement grants to buses, ferries, commuter rail, and subways.

“Unless we act now to prepare for future weather events, the consequences for our cities, our infrastructure, and our residents will continue to be kept catastrophic,” Gillibrand later said.

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