Hurricane Irene: How’d We Do?
Hurricane Irene caused flooding in low-lying areas, left hundreds of thousands without power, downed hundreds of trees, and worst of all, reportedly caused 15 deaths in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In parts of the Tri-State, the flood waters continued to rise as late as Tuesday evening.
Despite all that, the region by many accounts still dodged the “storm of the century” and ended up with tropical storm Irene.
By Tuesday, millions of people were headed back to work on a mostly-functional transit system.
Overall, how did the Tri-State area handle Irene?
- Mayor Michael Bloomberg needed to appear fully on-top of Irene after the botched response to last winter’s “snowpocalypse,” the blizzard that buried New York and left the mayor’s reputation temporarily in tatters.
Bloomberg’s advisers studied evacuation models from Hurricane Katrina and the city created the New York City Coastal Storm Plan in 2005, reported City Hall News. Credit for the plan can be given largely to Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno. The plan influenced the mayor’s decision to order mandatory evacuations of 370,000 people living in the low-lying areas most prone to flooding, and it called on a list of 130,000 volunteers — many of them teachers — to help prepare for the emergency, reported the New York Post.
In retrospect, Bloomberg’s performance may have been overkill, but the Daily Beast gave him a “B-” on their Hurricane Irene report card for his ultra-preparedness. The mayor received positive feedback from several local pols, including — notably — City Comptroller John Liu, who is usually not the mayor’s biggest fan.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo received an “A” on the Daily Beast’s report card. Cuomo avoided the “life and death” language Bloomberg employed, but by most accounts reacted appropriately. The governor said at a Monday afternoon press conference that he had no regrets regarding preparation in the Mid-Hudson and Catskills area. “I don’t think there’s anything those communities could have done differently,” he said of those upstate areas, which were hit the hardest.
Behind the scenes, there was conflict between Cuomo and Bloomberg. City Hall News reported that Cuomo did not want any of his people to attend Bloomberg’s hurricane briefings, and attempted to prevent MTA Chief Jay Walder from speaking at them.
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was in Florida during “snowpocalypse” and therefore in a similar position to Bloomberg, needed to manage Irene tactfully. He stayed in state for this natural disaster and, in his typical colloquial-style, ordered his constituents to “stay the hell off the beach!” The Daily Beast gave Christie an “A-.”
On Monday, Christie ordered all state employees back to work — a formidable challenge for many — which resulted in quite an uproar from the state’s largest public employee union, reported the Star-Ledger.
- Metropolitan Transit Authority: On Friday, when the MTA announced that it would shut down the transit system on Saturday, a collective groan seemed to roar over the New York-metro area. But overall, New Yorkers seemed to express a positive opinion of the MTA’s handling of Irene. Or, at the very least, they were appreciative when the systems were restored, reported the New York Times. “I didn’t think these trains would be ready to go. But they weren’t even crowded. I got a seat!” one happy straphanger told the Times.
“Mountains of credit go to MTA boss Jay Walder and Port Authority head Chris Ward and their workers — whose oversight of the city’s transportation network resulted in a quick return to normal (or nearly so) conditions,” the New York Post said in an opinion piece.
- Subways and buses are running on normal schedules. Click here for subway and bus updates.
- Metro-North Railroad was the most flooded component of the transit system. By Tuesday, regular weekday service had resumed on several lines. Click here for Metro-North updates.
- The Long Island Railroad was operating at “near-normal” service on Tuesday. Click here for LIRR updates.
- PATH trains were back up and running as of Monday morning.
- New Jersey Transit’s rail lines planned to resume most regular service Tuesday. Buses were operating on a near-normal schedule. Click here for New Jersey Transit updates.
Many New Yorkers ventured out to experience nature’s wrath once Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday morning. WNYC reporter Jim O’Grady recalled some humorous images, including people in Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s McCarren Park mimicking the ominous hurricane warnings of cable news journalists. In the Rockaways, two daredevil cyclists took on the hurricane winds as they headed for the beach. Many of New York City’s restaurants were open for business to people jogging, or even kayaking, through the puddles, reported the New York Post.
Only about half of the people ordered to evacuate their homes actually did so, reported the International Business Times, which suggested that many jaded New Yorkers wanted front row seats to the spectacle.
“New Yorkers are hard to impress,” John Savage of Syracuse, N.Y., commented on the International Business Times website. “Do you have such a high threshold for stimulation that you want the worst case to develop?”
Inwood resident Rachel Figueroa-Levin brought humor to the storm with her @ElBloombito tweets, which made fun of the mayor’s Spanglish.
In Long Island, where hundreds of thousands of home were still without power, the “sounds of chainsaws and sump pumps filled the air” Monday morning as residents looked to life after Irene, the Long Island Press reported.
“It’s in our darkest hours that we shine the brightest,” Cuomo said of New York’s response to the hurricane.
Neighbors in inland New Jersey, where there were reports of significant flooding in areas close to the rivers, ventured outside Sunday to help those who were stranded. “We met a lot of people on the street so something good came out of it,” Teaneck resident Louse March told the Record.
On Tuesday, the Passaic River crested at 14 feet. Major flooding continues to devastate many towns and roads, as neighbors and rescuers continue to save what they can. The Willowbrook Mall was flooded on Tuesday afternoon. 550 people have been evacuated from Paterson and the borough of Wallington was issued an evacuation order on Tuesday afternoon, reported the Record.
In Connecticut, Gov. Dan Malloy said the state had come through the storm “in relatively good shape.”