“If we already can’t cope with where we are, then there’s little hope that it’s going to improve in a warming climate,” Dr. Dahl said.
The country’s vulnerability in the face of extreme weather was punctuated by the downpour that flooded the country’s largest city. New York City has invested billions of dollars in storm protection since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, investments that seemed to do little to blunt the impact of the deluge.
Rain poured down in furious torrents, turning the subway system into a kind of flume ride. Central Park recorded 7.19 inches of rain, nearly double the previous record set in 1927 for the same date, according to the National Weather Service, which issued the city’s first-ever flash flood emergency alert.
Ahead of the storm, city and state officials activated preparation plans: clearing drains, erecting flood barriers in the subway and other sensitive areas, warning the public. But the rainfall dumped more water, and faster, than what the city factored into its new storm water maps as an “extreme” flood event.
The pattern of damage reflects the relationship between climate exposure and racial inequality: impacts were more apparent in low-income communities of color, which, because of historic inequalities, are more prone to flooding, receive less maintenance from city services, and frequently experience lax housing code enforcement.
Most of those killed in New York City drowned when floodwaters rushed into their basement apartments. Many such apartments do not meet safety requirements, but have proliferated as affordable housing for the working poor and undocumented immigrants who may fear complaining to authorities about safety violations.
In one case, Tara Ramskriet, 43, and her son Nick, 22, drowned when water filled their basement apartment in the Hollis section of Queens so quickly family members could not pull them out against the flow and a wall collapsed, trapping them inside.