In an all too familiar story, parts of Hoboken became submerged during another “50-year storm” in less than two weeks.
The July 22 storm produced a staggering one-inch of rain in just eight minutes – the most intense storm Hoboken has seen since the city’s second flood pump came online in 2016.
The peak 15-minute interval of the storm had a rate of 4.72 inches of rain per hour, more than two and a half times the intensity of Tropical Storm Fay, and almost three times the intensity of the Cinco de Mayo storm in 2017.
Two inches of rain fell in under two and a half hours, compared to three inches of rain in six hours during Fay, and three inches of rain in eight hours during the May 5, 2017 storm.
As with Tropical Storm Fay, Hoboken’s two flood pumps were operational and pumped more than 15 million gallons of water during and after the storm, but the rate of rain was greater than the capacity of the sewers flowing to the pumps, resulting in the backup of rain from the sewers into the streets.
It took hours to pump out most of the water.
According to Mayor Ravi Bhalla and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA), the water receded in most locations at a faster rate than if the city hadn’t had the pumps at all.
Climate change is partly to blame
“Unfortunately, this message is all too familiar for residents given we provided similar information two weeks ago,” Bhalla said. “Many are understandably asking if there was a 50-year storm two weeks ago, how do you explain another 50-year storm yesterday? The reality is, according to numerous scientific studies, these types of storms are already becoming much more frequent and with greater intensity, due to rising global temperatures and climate change, and will continue on this pattern.”
Bhalla cited the Climate Science Special Report, which states the heaviest one percent of rain events in the country’s Northeast have increased by 42 percent since the 1950s.
“Needless to say, here in Hoboken, we’re experiencing firsthand the fact that intense rainfall events are occurring more frequently than they were decades ago,” he said. “This is not to shift the blame, it is simply to give context and a holistic view of what is occurring in Hoboken.”
He reiterated that Hoboken was unlikely to solve flooding during severe storms due to the city’s low-lying topography and location on the Hudson River, even with unlimited funding.
NHSA estimates that to prevent the most severe flooding events the city would have to replace the entire sewer system, which would cost an estimated $3 billion.
Hoboken is continuing to invest in several resiliency initiatives like rain gardens, resiliency parks, and the Rebuild by Design project.
“Overall, we are investing significant funding, much of it through grants, low-interest loans with principal forgiveness, and other mechanisms (that doesn’t place an undue burden on the taxpayer) to combat flooding from rain events,” Bhalla said.
He said the city and NHSA have financed or sponsored more than $140 million in capital projects over the past decade to reduce flooding.
“I understand that the explanations above may not be of any comfort to those who had flood damage in their homes, were stuck in a car stuck in floodwaters, or had cars that didn’t start this morning,” Bhalla said. “We will continue to do everything we can to keep moving forward and invest in sensible flood infrastructure that chips away, although may never fully solve, this century-old problem for the most severe of storms like yesterday.”
To learn how Hoboken and NHSA address intense rainfall, visit https://cityofhoboken.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=8a8c57a8b4d1403299fce4d8c5d0af54
To learn how Hoboken mitigates flooding: https://cityofhoboken.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=65c107f7e6984c4ca988c84ae406d27f