On July 9, 2021, heavy rain from Tropical Storm Elsa fell on New York City. This led to a number of viral videos on social media that showed people wading through high water inside a subway station. The videos may have overshadowed a more inspiring moment that happened just above, when at least two New York residents banded together to clear litter from a storm drain on a flooded block.
'Only in New York'
The original videos that showed New Yorkers clearing a storm drain of litter came from the @antilitterproject Instagram account. They were reposted to TikTok by @mickmicknyc, where they were viewed nearly 4 million times in 24 hours. The same videos were also reposted to Instagram.
The videos were shot at Broadway and West 157th Street. They showed men with what appeared to be shovels attempting to remove garbage and other debris from blocking a clogged storm drain.
It's unclear if the men worked in the corner store seen in the background of the videos. However, the floodwaters appeared to be close to entering several nearby businesses.
The New York Times reported that some subway passengers walked through waist-deep water to reach their trains. It happened below the same intersection where the flooded storm drains were cleared, at Broadway and West 157th Street.
In New York City and its suburbs, heavy rains prompted the police to rescue more than a dozen people from one flooded stretch of highway on Thursday and forced would-be subway riders to navigate waist-deep waters on their way into one Upper Manhattan station.
Videos posted on Twitter showed several subway stations taking on water — some from above, some from below. The No. 1 station at Broadway and 157th Street in Manhattan appeared to suffer the most dire effects of the storm, with some passengers opting to wade through filthy water on their way to the platform.
One of the most popular videos was posted by Twitter user @PaulleeWR:
TikTok user @mickmicknyc also posted a clip of water flooding down the subway stairs:
The Times reported that crews were "out across the city addressing the flooding problems as quickly as possible."
On July 10, one day after the videos of the clogged storm drain and flooded subway station were recorded, the Associated Press reported that Elsa continued to "lash" New York City. By that point, the storm was downgraded to no longer be considered a tropical storm.
"We're waiting on the water to recede," said Joe Soto, the city's emergency management director. "The drainage system was just overwhelmed."
The storm came a day after a deluge flooded some streets and subway stations in New York City.
Despite videos showing flooding in some stations Thursday, "we actually weathered the storm quite well," interim New York City Transit president Sarah Feinberg said in an email.
As for the New Yorkers who worked to clear the storm drain of litter to release the floods, it's a moment of coming together that fits the spirit and history of the city, and one they likely won't soon forget.