Daily News, August 29, 2011, "People Will Scream"



BY LILLIAN RIZZO, ERIK BADIA, MARK MORALES, SARAH ARMAGHAN, LORE CROGHAN, ALISON GENDAR, PETE DONOHUE, REUVEN BLAU, BARRY PADDOCK, TINA MOORE and LARRY McSHANE

The worst of hit-and-run Hurricane Irene comes today as millions of commuters face a morning disaster, blackouts stretch into a third day and the cleanup kicks into high gear.

“It will be annoying, and people will scream,” Mayor Bloomberg predicted. Subways will run this morning with fewer trains and longer waits.

It was unclear when Metro-North and NJ Transit would begin regular service, but the Long Island Rail Road restores partial service this morning.

Buses were the first to get going yesterday. “This is a difficult process,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority boss Jay Walder said.

At the same time, utility companies scrambled to deal with widespread power failures. At its peak, Irene knocked out power to 174,000 customers in the city and Westchester County.


About 131,500 remained without power last night. Con Ed warned the power might not come back until midnight tomorrow as high winds hampered repair efforts.

Statewide, more than 936,000 customers lost power, including 460,000 on Long Island. In New Jersey, 650,000 people were without electricity.

Many of the power failures were due to downed trees. The hurricane uprooted or split 719 trees —336 in Queens and 219 in Brooklyn. Cops chased people out of Central Park yesterday amid fears of falling branches.

Highway officials said most roads closed because of flooding should be cleared by this morning. There was flooding in Howard Beach, Queens; in Hudson River Park on the West Side; on a pair of East Side piers, and in Sheepshead Bay,Brooklyn.

While Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hit the city, it saved its last savage blows for Coney Island, which suffered flooding in spots.

Still, despite days of dire predictions, the city avoided the doomsday scenario of widespread blackouts, massive flooding and shattered skyscraper glass.

The hurricane was history by late morning, leaving behind a gray sky and a few final raindrops for a total of nearly 7 inches in Central Park, wrapping up the wettest August in city history.

“Whether we dodged a bullet or look up and say God smiled on us, I’m happy to report that there were no deaths due to the storm,” Bloomberg said.

There were five New York State deaths, including that of a Spring Valley, Rockland County, man electrocuted while coming to the aid of a child on a flooded street with downed wires.

Another man died after an inflatable boat he was in with four friends capsized on the Croton River in Westchester last night, cops said.

Suffolk County cops were investigating the drowning of a 68-year old man who went windsurfing in Bellport Baynear East Islip yesterday afternoon. He was one at least 21 people in eight states killed by the hurricane — including a New Jersey woman who drowned in her car.

It was not clear if the death of a man found in the water at a City Island marina was weather related.

There was at least one dramatic rescue: The FDNY grabbed 61 adults and three children after an overflowing lake in Staten Island’s Willowbrook Park trapped them in 5 feet of water.

No one was hurt as 50 firefighters in boats safely removed the residents, said FDNY spokesman Paul Iannizzotto.

Most New Yorkers were grateful the city’s closest brush with a hurricane since the Reagan administration was more disruption than disaster. “We were really blessed,” said Eddie Acosta, 65, of Red Hook, Brooklyn, who got 2 feet of water from his basement.

The 370,000 people evacuated from low-lying flood zones in the five boroughs were cleared to return home yesterday at 3p.m.

Today, Wall Street and the rest of the Financial District should open for business as usual, the mayor said. But yesterday, for a second straight day, the typically tourist-packed streets of Manhattan were largely empty.

Broadway shows were shuttered — they reopen tonight — and most stores in Times Square were closed, including a Starbucks on 43rd St., where a pair of British tourists tapped into the free Wi-Fi from outside.

“We’re emailing,” said Gail Carey, 46, of Manchester, leaning against the window. “We’ve left the kids at home.”