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After hurricane, New Yorkers hardly miss a beat

SHARE After hurricane, New Yorkers hardly miss a beat

NEW YORK — When the clouds began to part, Wall Street wasn't swamped. Coney Island's world-famous Cyclone roller coaster was still standing. The Empire State Building hadn't lost a single window.

New Yorkers barely missed a beat after Irene — a hurricane demoted to a tropical storm just before it made it to the big city — swept through Sunday morning.

Just hours after an all-night, window-rattling drenching from the storm, people were back on the streets, jogging, milling around Times Square, walking dogs and surveying the damage, which consisted mostly of downed trees, power outages and neighborhood flooding.

The subway system, shut down Saturday because of the risk of flooding, was still out of service, and trains probably won't be running in time for the Monday morning commute, meaning it could be a hellish start of the work week for millions of New Yorkers.

But for a while at least, "it was a fun little adventure," said Zander Lassen, who spent the night at a boathouse in lower Manhattan babysitting beached sailboats.

To be sure, there were terrifying moments: Firefighters on Staten Island rescued dozens of people trapped by floodwaters. On the Queens seashore, part of a pier collapsed and two summer bungalows were reduced to piles of timber.

For a little while, it looked as if the storm could cause significant damage to the world's financial capital. Water from New York Harbor washed onto the sidewalk at Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan. About a foot of water lapped over the wall of the marina in front of the New York Mercantile Exchange. A section of the promenade on the harbor was submerged, and equipment for the Staten and Ellis Island ferries was damaged. It could take a day to get them up and running.

City officials had worried seawater would flood lower Manhattan and damage the underground power lines that serve Wall Street, crippling the nation's financial system. But that didn't happen. The main stock exchanges were set to open as scheduled Monday.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there were no confirmed deaths or serious injuries. The evacuation order that covered 370,000 people across the city was lifted at 3 p.m. As for the shutdown of the city's transit system, the mayor said in his typically blasÉ way: "Tough commute tomorrow, but we have tough commutes all the time."

Irene — New York City's biggest brush with tropical weather since Hurricane Gloria in 1985 — weakened to a tropical storm just before blowing ashore at Brooklyn's Coney Island around 9 a.m. It was still a big storm with winds up 65 mph, but the water did not rise as high as feared, and it receded quickly.

Bob Kern, a lawyer, waited out the storm in his 26th-floor apartment in Battery Park City.

"I was here for 9/11, and a good friend of mine just died this week," he said. "So I guess I just figured what will be will be. I've been through a lot, so I thought, 'What else can be thrown at me?'"

He added, "I've been surprised how many people are walking around already. I think people are already getting back to it. I'm really, really glad and grateful things are OK."

While power was out in about 69,000 homes and businesses around the city, streets that had been all but deserted were bustling by late afternoon. Tourists held hands and wandered through Times Square. In Brooklyn, residents came outside and used downed tree branches to clear debris from blocked sewer grates.

While many New Yorkers just seemed to pick up and go on with their Sundays, some were frustrated their power was out or were steamed about being ordered to evacuate.

"We left, and nothing happened," said a miffed Denise Gomez, as she unloaded groceries and bags from the trunk of her car in Brooklyn. "We knew it wasn't going to be anything, but we were bullied into leaving."

The city's major landmarks were untouched. The Sept. 11 memorial in lower Manhattan didn't suffer any significant flooding, and pieces of steel and other artifacts gathered for a planned museum were safe and dry.

And a hurricane proved no match for the Cyclone, the rattling, wooden roller coaster that opened on Coney Island in 1927 and is 85 feet high. It, too, came through unscathed.

Nearby in Brighton Beach, a patch of blue sky peeked through.

"Nature is freaky, isn't it?" said Lisa Taub.

Irene also brought serious flooding to New York's Long Island and chewed away the shoreline at some popular beaches on the last week of the summer season.

Fred Fiedler cleared downed tree limbs in Southold, N.Y., a beach town near the northeastern tip of Long Island where his home and many others lost power.

"It could've been a lot worse," the 71-year-old Fiedler said. "This is about the sixth hurricane that I've gone through in my lifetime. I hope it's the last."


Associated Press writers Meghan Barr in Southold, N.Y., and Tom Hays, Larry Neumeister, Beth Fouhy, Samantha Gross, Jennifer Peltz, Verena Dobnik, Tom Hays, and Deepti Hajela in New York City contributed to this report.