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Published: Monday, 8/29/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Much ado over hard rain leaves New York grateful

BY LAURA OLSON
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
A tree uprooted by Irene in Long Beach, N.Y., was one of many in the region. But overall, damage was mild compared to predictions of widespread severe devastation. A tree uprooted by Irene in Long Beach, N.Y., was one of many in the region. But overall, damage was mild compared to predictions of widespread severe devastation.
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NEW YORK — After an underwhelming visit from Irene, New Yorkers will be trudging back to work Monday morning.

The hurricane-turned-tropical storm did make her presence known in the city and surrounding boroughs as she barged through: Tree branches blocked street lanes; water rose to fill the Battery Park boardwalk, and high winds lingered to sandblast those venturing out to the beaches by late afternoon.

But the Big Apple was mostly unscathed compared to the citywide flooding, shattering of high-rise windows, and other impacts that were forecasted to accompany the supposedly historic storm.

While some residents grumbled about officials shutting down public transit and ordering evacuations — never-before-taken-steps here — many said the precautions were preferable to risking more deaths or injuries.

The storm reached New York Sunday morning, following days of anticipation as Irene slammed into North Carolina and barreled up the coast. After ricocheting off the Jersey shore, the brunt of the storm pounded against the Coney Island boardwalk and Long Island.

The oceanfront community of Long Beach took a particularly hard, though brief, hit. Sand and puddles were visible blocks back from the ocean. One of the beach entrances was flooded for a full block, though by midafternoon, much of the water had receded.

READ MORE: Tamer Irene leaves swath of flooding, power outages

As Irene drifted away, residents and tourists began to return, flocking to the boardwalk to snap photos of the remaining flooded areas and struggle to stand amid the still-strong wind gusts.

Allan Fox, 52, said he was expecting a much worse outcome than what he eventually saw outside his beachfront high-rise.

“Nature is an awesome thing,” Mr. Fox said, gesturing to the flooded parking lot behind him. “I’m blessed to be able to live next to the ocean so I see it every day, but this is an amazing site.”

The human-resources manager added that he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to manage his train-and-subway commute this morning, but that he still was glad that officials “erred on the side of caution.”

Back on Coney Island, dozens more came to check out a beach that showed few visible signs of the heavy winds and rain that pelted its Ferris wheel and other attractions just hours earlier.

In New York City’s Meatpacking District, Irene lightly flooded 10th Avenue. In many areas, standing water was quickly receding. In New York City’s Meatpacking District, Irene lightly flooded 10th Avenue. In many areas, standing water was quickly receding.
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Several of the concession stands had opened by midafternoon, after sweeping out a little sand. A line of red flags blocking off the beach didn’t deter some from inching closer to inspect the choppy waves.

“There was an awful lot of hype about the storm, but it seemed like a really good drill,” said Carl Deal, a filmmaker from Brooklyn who was strolling along the beach with his 3-month-old son.

Not all fared as well: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said 62,000 households in the metropolitan area were without power, and crews were busy throughout the day hauling downed trees.

More than 9,000 residents in 81 emergency shelters were allowed to return to their low-lying homes starting at 3 p.m. Saturday, when that order was lifted. While the subway remained out of commission as officials inspected tracks and signals, some buses returned to their rounds late Sunday.

Much of Manhattan remained closed throughout the morning, though not all was quiet: Taxis trolled the streets, and a smattering of pizza shops and delis catered to hungry residents.

In Times Square, which had grown deserted as the storm approached, crowds began to reappear shortly before noon.

Some flooding occurred in the Meatpacking District, on the west side of the borough near the Hudson River. Employees at the Brass Monkey, an Irish pub, pumped water out of the basement and removed plywood boards from the windows so they could get back to serving customers.

Much of the standing water wasn’t more than what they’d expect in an average heavy rainstorm, neighbors said.

“I was prepared for the worst,” said Margaret Evangeliane, an artist originally from New Orleans, as she watched water being pumped from the basement of her building. “I’m glad it was disappointing.”

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Laura Olson is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Laura Olson at: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.



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