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A sea lion (symbolic image).

Photo: Henning Kaiser/ dpa

Exceptionally heavy rain has paralyzed parts of the American east coast metropolis of New York. Highways and roads were transformed into lake-like landscapes, and an airport terminal was also flooded and closed. The city administration called on people on Friday to stay at home if possible – many subways stopped running or had long delays. Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency.

The rising water in many places also opened up an unexpected possibility for an animal in the Central Park Zoo: "A sea lioness in the Central Park Zoo was able to swim out of her pool today because the place was flooded due to heavy rainfall in New York City," it said in a statement. The staff of the already closed zoo had observed the female as she explored the area – but finally returned to the familiar surroundings of her pool.

Neither employees nor visitors were in danger. The sea lioness would not have broken through the secondary fencing of the zoo, the statement continues. The four zoos and the aquarium were closed that day so that staff could focus on the animals and facilities during the storm, the Central Park Zoo said.

Low-pressure area caused masses of water

Governor Hochul called the extreme weather a "life-threatening event," while Mayor Eric Adams warned that the danger was not over. New Yorkers' cell phones vibrated several times on Friday because of automatic emergency alerts from the National Weather Agency. Under the thick cloud cover, it remained gloomy even in the middle of the day. Responsible for the water masses was a persistent low-pressure area that had formed from tropical storm "Ophelia".

According to information from the New York Times, September is the wettest in over 140 years in the metropolis of eight million people – since records began, only 1882 has seen more precipitation. Many New Yorkers were reminded of the heavy rain that flooded the city two years ago due to Hurricane Ida. At that time, at least eleven people died because their basement apartments were full.