Hurricane Larry was expected to bring heavy rain, high winds and coastal flooding to parts of Newfoundland in eastern Canada on Friday, as the powerful storm sped up in its northward path across the Atlantic.
As of Friday morning, Larry was 465 miles from the southernmost tip of Newfoundland, moving north at 29 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said. The center of the storm was projected to move near or over southeastern Newfoundland by early Saturday morning.
Andrew Furey, the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, said in a news conference on Thursday that residents should get prepared for the storm.
“The utility companies have emergency measures plans in place, as do the regional health authorities,” Mr. Furey said, according to CTV News, a Canadian television network. “We don’t know what storms bring, but we can be prepared for the worst.”
Forecasters predicted that Larry would make landfall in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, late Friday or early Saturday. Local firefighters urged resident to prepare items like flashlights, batteries, food and water, telling them to “put away all outside items that could be projectiles.”
In the past 70 years, only 23 hurricanes or post-tropical storms of hurricane strength have made landfall in Canada, according to the Canadian Hurricane Centre.
Maggie Burton, the councillor at large for St. John’s, warned of the storm’s potential impact on more vulnerable residents.
“With extreme weather and natural disasters becoming more and more common, I am calling on all levels of government to develop inclusive emergency preparedness plans,” she said on Twitter.
Newfoundland was preparing for high winds and the potential power outages.
The St. Johns city government issued an advisory on Wednesday with tips on how residents could prepare for being alone for up to 72 hours in case of dire emergency. The city, which is in the middle of an election, asked candidates and residents to take down election signs in anticipation of high winds.
The city said it was clearing debris from storm drains and rivers and preparing sand bags to try to prevent extreme flooding. The city is also fueling equipment, like loaders and graders in case debris from the hurricane obstructs streets.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the province’s police, planned to deploy the same team that worked during “snowmageddon” of last year, when a winter storm dumped about 30 inches of snow in St John’s, James. C. Cadigan, a spokesman, said on Friday.
“These are probably our most experienced patrol officers for a weather event that you’re going to get,” he said.
Canada is not used to preparing for hurricanes, but Mr. Cadigan said that officers were ready to help residents get floodwater out of their homes, if necessary, and would be equipped with full tanks of fuel and extra food for people in need.
Mr. Cadigan said he was particularly worried about floods, and that the authorities were urging people to stay away from coastlines and off roads. “We are we are an island and we have a lot of coastal communities.” he said. “And the storm surges can be very dangerous to coastal communities.”
The advisory also provided numbers for those dealing with domestic abuse or those who use illicit drugs to find specialized help.
Larry, which formed on Sept. 1, strengthened to a Category 3 storm two days later but has since weakened to a Category 1, with maximum sustained winds of 80 m.p.h. It passed Bermuda on Thursday but has otherwise posed little threat to land. Some meteorologists estimated Friday that the hurricane’s eye was 90 miles wide.
What is “landfall”? And what are you truly facing when you’re in the eye of the storm?
During hurricane season, news coverage and forecasts can include a host of confusing terms. Let’s take a look at what they mean →
Although the hurricane was well east of the United States early Friday afternoon, large swells generated by the storm threatened to cause dangerous surf and rip currents along the East Coast, the National Weather Serivice said.
It has been a dizzying few weeks for meteorologists who have monitored several named storms that formed in quick succession, bringing stormy weather, flooding and damaging winds to parts of the United States and the Caribbean.
Tropical Storm Mindy hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday night, just hours after it formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It was downgraded to a tropical depression on Thursday but brought heavy rain to parts of the Southeastern United States before moving into the Atlantic Ocean.
Ida battered Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 29 before its remnants brought deadly flooding to the New York area. Two other tropical storms, Julian and Kate, both fizzled out within a day.
Not long before them, in mid-August, Tropical Storm Fred made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and Hurricane Grace hit Haiti and Mexico. Tropical Storm Henri knocked out power and brought record rainfall to the Northeastern United States on Aug. 22.
The quick succession of named storms might make it seem as if the Atlantic is spinning them up like a fast-paced conveyor belt, but their formation coincides with the peak of hurricane season.
The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.
Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.
Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.
In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic.
NOAA updated its forecast in early August, predicting 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30.
Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes, forcing meteorologists to exhaust the alphabet for the second time and move to using Greek letters.
It was the most named storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes.
Louis Lucero II, Eduardo Medina, Christopher Mele, Azi Paybarah, Chris Stanford and Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.
— The New York Times
Christine Verdin received numerous photos from friends and family of the destruction Hurricane Ida brought to the rural community of Pointe-aux-Chenes, which runs along a bayou southwest of New Orleans.
But the images could not prepare Ms. Verdin, who serves on the council of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe, for the extent of the damage she found there this week.
“There are no homes,” said Ms. Verdin, who grew up in Pointe-aux-Chenes and lives nearby. Dozens of houses in the rural community were destroyed beyond habitability, with walls caved in and roofs taken clean off the top.
Seventy miles away in New Orleans, evacuees have been steadily returning this week as power was largely restored. Businesses are reopening, and families are preparing to send children to schools when they open next week.
But in rural areas south of the city that were hit hardest by the storm, the recovery stage has barely begun.
In Terrebonne Parish, where Ms. Verdin lives, 100 percent of customers remained without power on Thursday, according to Entergy, the area’s main utility. In other nearby parishes, 5 percent of customers had power restored. In some areas, the electric network will have to be completely rebuilt, which could take weeks, according to Entergy.
By Friday morning, 12 days after the storm, the utility said that it had restored service to more than 80 percent of the 948,000 customers who lost power.
Gov. John Bel Edwards planned to travel to Terrebonne Parish on Friday to assess the damage. Some areas remain under boil water advisories. Debris, trees and downed power lines clutter the roads. Obtaining basic necessities like food, ice and gasoline remains a persistent challenge.
In coastal parishes, most residents can rattle off a long catalog of hurricanes they have survived. But Ms. Verdin says this one feels different.
“I’ve never seen people get this emotional,” Ms. Verdin said, adding that rebuilding is a daunting prospect for many who lack homeowners’ insurance because of high premiums. One of her family members whose home was destroyed, an uncle who is 78 years old, told her he did not have the energy or resources to rebuild.
“Normally he has a solution to everything,” Ms. Verdin said. “And this time he doesn’t.”
Exceptionally dry conditions in Sacramento and other parts of Northern California were expected to complicate firefighters’ efforts on Friday as they battle about a dozen major wildfires across the state.
A red flag warning — indicating that the combination of warm temperatures, very low humidity and strong winds could spark new fires — was issued for the Sacramento region and areas east toward the California-Nevada state line until 11 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Areas east and south of San Francisco were also included in the warning.
“Fire safety precautions should be exercised to prevent additional fires,” the Weather Service said, adding that fires could also start from lightning.
By early Friday, light rain showers and thunderstorms were moving across Northern California, the Weather Service said.
About 100 miles east of Sacramento, the Caldor fire remained a threat, having consumed about 219,000 acres while being only 53 percent contained, according to a New York Times wildfire tracker. The cause of that blaze, which started almost a month ago, remains under investigation.
Thousands of residents have been forced to flee, and more than 780 homes have been destroyed since the blaze started. Late last month, officials said the Caldor fire had become the state’s top priority.
Farther north, where a red flag warning was also in place, the expanding Dixie fire prompted more evacuations on Thursday, when the fire jumped Highway 44 and reached just outside of Old Station, a small town in Shasta County.
The Dixie fire, now the second largest in state history, has burned more than 950,000 acres in two months and is 59 percent contained. More than 720 homes have been destroyed.
Over time, the link between climate change and wildfires across California has become clear. After two years of drought, the soil moisture is depleted, drying out vegetation and making it more prone too combustion.
Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, said on Thursday that more than 14,600 firefighters were assigned to 13 active large wildfires. More than 2.1 million acres have been burned statewide, the agency said, adding that state, local, tribal and federal resources were being used to fight the blazes.
The period from June through August this year was the hottest on record in the United States, exceeding even the Dust Bowl summer of 1936, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday.
The average temperature this summer in the contiguous United States was 74 degrees, exceeding by less than a hundredth of a degree the record set in the summer of 1936, when scorching heat led to the death of thousands of Americans and catastrophic crop failure.
Five states — California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah — reported their warmest summers on record, NOAA reported, while 16 other states reported “a top-five warmest summer on record,” the agency said.
The average temperature in the United States through August this year was 55.6 degrees, NOAA said, 1.8 degrees above the 20th century average and the 13th warmest to date for that period of the year.
On Thursday, many areas in the West remained under an excessive heat warning, including portions of Southern Nevada, Death Valley, the Colorado River Valley and eastern San Bernardino County, Calif., the National Weather Service said. Temperatures were expected to range from 105 degrees in Las Vegas to nearly 120 degrees in Death Valley.
While tying a single heat wave to climate change requires extensive attribution analysis, heat waves around the world are growing more frequent, longer lasting and more dangerous. The 2018 National Climate Assessment, a major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies, notes that the number of hot days is increasing, and the frequency of heat waves in the United States jumped from an average of two per year in the 1960s to six per year by the 2010s. Also, the season for heat waves has stretched to be 45 days longer than it was in the 1960s, according to the report.
It is all part of an overall warming trend: The seven warmest years in the history of accurate worldwide record-keeping have been the last seven years, and 19 of the 20 warmest years have occurred since 2000; worldwide, June 2019 was the hottest ever recorded and June 2020 essentially tied it.
NOAA included the details of this summer’s record-setting temperatures in its monthly climate report, which it issued near the end of a summer of extreme weather events in the United States.
Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29 with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour, making 2021 the second year in a row that a Category 4 hurricane slammed the state, NOAA said.
Three days later, Ida’s remnants tore across the Northeast, causing deadly flash flooding that was blamed for dozens of deaths. Ida followed soon after Tropical Storm Fred caused flash flooding and touched off several tornadoes in the Southeast, and after Tropical Storm Henri brought fierce wind and torrential rain to much of the Northeast.
Water wasn’t the only problem. Wildfires devastated large swaths of California. The Dixie fire, which started in July, has destroyed more than 927,000 acres and is now the second largest fire in the state’s history, NOAA said. The Caldor fire also grew quickly in August and threatened communities southwest of Lake Tahoe in California.
— Vimal Patel
WASHINGTON — The coming weeks on Capitol Hill will be crucial to President Biden’s climate agenda, including whether the president can credibly make the case to the rest of the world that the United States will meet his promise to drastically reduce emissions that are warming the planet.
In Congress, details are emerging of the climate and clean energy policies in a sweeping $3.5 trillion budget package that Democrats are drafting and hope to send to Mr. Biden’s desk by year’s end.
As progressive Democrats and Mr. Biden envision it, the budget bill, which would include a historic expansion of social welfare programs, would also be the single largest piece of climate legislation to pass Congress.
The most powerful climate mechanism in that bill is a $150 billion incentive and penalty program designed to replace most of the nation’s coal- and gas-fired power plants over the next decade with wind, solar and nuclear plants. The program would pay electricity suppliers for increasing the amount of power they produce from clean zero-emissions sources, and fine those that don’t.
Power plants that burn fossil fuels are the second-largest source of greenhouse emissions after cars and trucks, and shutting them down would significantly lower the nation’s heat-trapping pollution. If enacted, the program could stand as the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s climate agenda.
On Monday, the House energy committee will begin consideration of that provision, known as the Clean Electricity Payment Program.
Many Democrats returning from recess to Washington next week say they are emboldened to push for the clean electricity plan and other aggressive climate action after a summer in which nearly every corner of the country experienced deadly droughts, floods, wildfires and heat waves that scientists say have been worsened by climate change.
Democrats are now making the case that the proposed record spending regarding climate change is an economic imperative.
“Last year alone, our country experienced 22 major natural disasters costing Americans a record-shattering $95 billion in damages — figures that represent more than double the historical average, but which still don’t reflect the cost of lost jobs or the trauma of families losing their homes,” said Representative Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will draft the central climate provisions of the budget bill. “The climate crisis is here, and the cost of inaction is already staggering.”
The House energy committee will debate other climate provisions in the budget bill, including $13.5 billion to construct charging stations for electric vehicles and promote the electrification of heavy-duty vehicles. Another program would spend $9 billion on updating the electric grid, to make it more conducive to transmitting wind and solar power, and to make it more resilient to the extreme temperatures, flooding and fires that scientists say are now unavoidable. Another provision would spend $17.5 billion to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from federal buildings and vehicles. The budget bill would also assess a fee from oil and gas companies for leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The government would use the revenue from those fees to pay for climate mitigation programs.
At the same time, Democrats on other committees are drafting tax incentives intended to lure American drivers away from fossil-fueled cars — the nation’s top source of greenhouse pollution — and toward electric vehicles, and to boost companies that design clean energy technology. They are readying money for a “Civilian Climate Corps” — a program designed to put young people to work in environmental conservation and climate resilience. And they are preparing to channel billions to help low-income and minority communities, which are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change, as well as communities that would lose fossil fuel jobs as a result of climate change policies.
But the passage of such policies is still far from certain. Republicans have already indicated they will oppose the $3.5 trillion budget plan. That means Democrats will need every vote from their party. Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they are opposed to the price tag and are looking for programs to cut. Mr. Manchin in particular may be focused on dropping provisions that would harm the coal industry.
In May, the world’s leading energy agency said nations around the world must immediately stop approving new coal-fired power plants and new oil and gas fields and quickly phase out gasoline-powered vehicles if they want to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.
Despite a precipitous decline in the United States, the coal industry still looms large in West Virginia. Mr. Manchin has financial connections to the industry; he owns stock valued at between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage. Last year, Mr. Manchin made $491,949 in dividends from his Enersystems stock, according to his Senate financial disclosure report. As chairman of the Senate energy committee, Mr. Manchin has broad authority in shaping the outcome of the budget bill.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin, Sam Runyon, did not respond to an email seeking comment from him.
However, several congressional Democratic staff members who have been working on the power plant language say they have been in close, frequent contact with Mr. Manchin’s staff as they draft the bill. More than one described the senator’s current stance on the language as “not a no.”
Mr. Biden will need something more definitive than that, however, and soon, if he is to convince other countries that the United States — the world’s largest economy and second-largest greenhouse gas polluter — can change its ways on climate, after four years in which former President Donald J. Trump openly mocked the science of climate change.
In November, Mr. Biden is scheduled to travel to a major United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, at which world leaders are expected to make new pledges committing to stronger reductions of planet-warming emissions — and to demonstrate the domestic policies that will allow them to meet those commitments.
Mr. Biden has already done the former: Earlier this year, he made the bold pledge that the United States would cut its carbon dioxide emissions 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. And he has also pledged to eliminate fossil fuel emissions entirely from the power sector by 2035.
It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to meet those goals without passage of the Clean Electricity Payment Program, experts say.
“This budget bill needs to pass in order for the United States to have credibility in Glasgow,” said Alice Hill, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who also served as a climate adviser to the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
Speaking specifically of the clean electricity program, she said: “That piece is critical. That is essentially going to be one of the most effective ways to have meaningful reductions immediately.”
If the final bill passes without the power plant plan, “that will unfortunately be interpreted as a signal that the United States is not committed,” Ms. Hill said. “It will make it a lot harder for the Biden team to convince the rest of the world that we’re back.”
An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the clean electricity program. It is the Clean Electricity Payment Program, not the Clean Electricity Performance Plan. Because of an editing error, the earlier version also misstated the month when the International Energy Agency released a report calling for the end of new coal plants. It was May, not July.
Wildfires in California and Oregon. Hurricanes that wreak havoc from the Gulf Coast up to the Northeast. Hail in the Midwest that is so big and falls with such intensity that it punctures roofs.
Extreme weather is causing billions of dollars in property damage with a greater frequency than even a few years ago. In response, insurance companies are increasingly rethinking which homes to cover and at what price.
In some cases, they’re raising premiums two to five times in a year. In others, they’re denying coverage because they deem it too risky to have a lot of properties in an area that is prone to wildfires (like Los Angeles County).
Insurers are also putting more of the onus on homeowners to keep up the maintenance on, say, roofs in areas that are regularly hit by hurricanes. They may also be asking if homeowners in fire-prone areas have done anything to mitigate fire damage. And people looking to buy a coastal home should make sure it is insurable at all.
“The severity, frequency and size of the storms is really what’s changed in the last two to three years,” said Jean Sullivan, vice president of insurance sales at Precisely, a data analytics company that does geographic risk assessments.
“Insurance companies are finding out that the models they built just three to five years ago are not holding up in the last two to three years,” she said. “That’s concerning to them, and that’s caused more pressure on the reinsurance companies that insure their risk, and more pressure on the homeowner.”
As a result, many homeowners in climate-ravaged areas are starting to have to deal with the availability and affordability of insurance, along with stricter terms and conditions, said Ross Buchmueller, president chief executive of PURE Insurance, which focuses on high-net-worth clients.
“If you want to buy a house in the canyons of Beverly Hills, you should check that it’s insurable,” Mr. Buchmueller said. “It’s not about someone couldn’t get insurance at a fair price. It’s you can’t get insurance at all in certain places.”
NFP, a large brokerage, felt fortunate to be able to retain a celebrity client’s insurance even with the price doubling, said Brett Woodward, the firm’s managing director, who runs the personal risk practice.
“He was paying $400,000 a year for his insurance last year,” Mr. Woodward said. “It was renewed in July at $850,000. We were happy he still had coverage.”
The changes in the market have opened up opportunities for newer companies to provide coverage — though at a steep price.
“We just charged someone $1.9 million for insurance in California with a $1 million deductible,” said Charles Williamson, chief executive of Vault, an insurance company that was started in 2017 and serves wealthy people in most East Coast states, California, Colorado and Texas. “There’s almost no capacity in Beverly Hills, because every insurance company is full up and Beverly Hills is very vulnerable to wildfire.”
But even some wealthier homeowners are asking if insurance, or at least insurance for the full value of their homes, is worth paying year after year.
Some California clients of Bessemer Trust, a wealth management firm, have put in their own wildfire-protection systems instead of paying high premiums on insurance with limited coverage, said Gary Pasternack, head of insurance advisory at Bessemer.
“It may be more economical for someone to spend money on loss-mitigation strategies than to pay so much in premium for policies that have large deductibles and poor coverage,” he said. “It’s playing out in California now in a significant way. People have to make a decision: Do I want to continue to buy insurance, or should I be making more of an investment in protecting my property against losses, particularly fire losses in the West?”
A built-in system that sprays foam on a house to protect it from catching fire can cost $4 to $6 a square foot. It’s even more expensive on multiple-building estates in fire-prone areas, Mr. Pasternack said. Some homeowners have bought foam systems mounted on all-terrain vehicles and given caretakers the responsibility of spraying down the buildings.
Of course, that system won’t work if there is an evacuation order. Still, Mr. Pasternack said, homeowners get creative when a policy that had an $80,000 annual premium a few years ago is now unavailable in the regular market or costs five times that — or, in one case he saw, 10 times more.
Short of foam-spraying A.T.V.s, there are things regular homeowners can do to protect their homes. A well-maintained roof can stand up better to hurricanes, heavy winds, and rain or hail. And insurers are often using aerial photography to see it.
“Even though you have trees hanging over your house, they’re using aerial imagery to look at your roof,” Ms. Sullivan of Precisely said. “Are there shingles missing? Does it have moss growing on it? Are there signs of it failing?”
Climate has changed the way many insurers are looking at claims, particularly if a roof may have been older than its useful life.
“Take a wood or cedar shake roof,” Mr. Woodward said. “Let’s say it’s supposed to last 40 years. An insurer may start knocking off coverage at the 20-year mark.”
Location has also become an issue. Insurers are using local climate data to be more precise in how they insure a property, Ms. Sullivan said.
“Five, 10 years ago, if your property was in a certain ZIP code, that was good enough for them,” she said. “They need to know more now. They need to know where that home is located on the property. Is there a flood zone? How close is it to a river? The cost for the same property at two ends of a street could be different because of the elevation.”
Some people who bought homes in unfamiliar areas or have fewer choices in an overheated market have found after the fact that the properties, particularly older, coastal homes, were uninsurable through traditional means. To get coverage, they have to turn to what is called the surplus market, where the rates set by the state insurance regulator do not apply. An insurer in that market can charge whatever it wants.
“Wealthy individuals are buying homes quickly in places like Florida because of a lack of inventory, and before they would have bought a home that was better built for the same price,” Mr. Woodward said. “Then we have a 30- to 60-day close, and we have to get them coverage. A lot of people didn’t envision the cost of that insurance when they made the purchase.”
Insurance on an older $1 million South Florida home that was not built to the region’s codes, which have protections against wind and rain damage, could be $40,000, compared with $3,000 for a similar home elsewhere, Mr. Woodward said. Getting that old home up to code so the premiums would come down, including new windows, doors and roof, can cost $100,000 or more, he said.
Mr. Buchmueller said a friend was building a home in Florida with an eye toward protecting it from extreme weather. The home isn’t in South Florida, so the building codes are looser, but the friend asked that the roof be strapped on and meet the more stringent code.
“The contractor told him that required 29,000 more roof fasteners,” Mr. Buchmueller said. “It’s not a small measure to add the South Florida code to a home.”
Whether it’s a starter home or a $5 million beach house, some owners are more mindful than others about taking care of their house.
“Some people treat their home like it’s their home,” Mr. Woodward said. “But some people treat their home like it’s just a place where they live. And I don’t care what you’re spending.”
Extreme weather may force more homeowners to take better care of their houses — or risk losing their insurance.
Nanaki Singh was walking home last week, hours after the remnants of Hurricane Ida turned many intersections in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East Williamsburg into knee-deep ponds, when he noticed a dead rat lying smack in the middle of the sidewalk. And another. And then another.
“I saw a total of six dead rodents within 10 square feet,” Mr. Singh, 23, said in a Twitter message to The New York Times on Thursday. He posted photos of the evidence on the social media site, along with some somber commentary and an “R.I.P.”
He was not the only one to notice that the storm had left a segment of the city’s rat population — which has never officially been counted, although estimates range into the millions — distressed, displaced or deceased.
On the shorelines of Jamaica Bay in Queens and Brooklyn, walkers spotted an unusual number of dead rats on beaches, as first reported by Gothamist. On the Upper East Side, one resident saw not one but three live rats skitter into her building, one stepping on her foot along the way.
Scientists who study urban rats said that the surge of water that coursed through streets, pipes and basements last week likely drowned thousands of rats and disrupted the habitats and feeding habits of many more.
“Just like people were caught off guard by the swell of flooding water coming down the streets, it’s possible that some of these rats also couldn’t get away in time,” said Jason Munshi-South, a professor of biology at Fordham University.
More rats live in sewers than in the subway, mainly in the older pipes that are made of brick; rats even nibble out mortar and burrow into the crevices. The pipes usually contain some air, and rats are relatively good swimmers, Dr. Munshi-South said — but with storm water so overwhelming the system that water gushed like geysers out of toilets and manholes, many could have been swept under by pressure or lacked enough space to take a breath.
But the rat population will more than survive this latest disruption, as it has many others. Early in the coronavirus pandemic last year, when restaurant closures reduced the availability of tasty scraps, the rodents improvised by finding edible pickings in residential garbage, which increased with the suspension of compost programs.
And in any case, scientists say, rats reproduce quickly and recoup any dip in population within months.
“From what I saw this summer,” Dr. Munshi-South said, “the rat population is quite healthy.”