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New York gets back to business after Irene

New York, August 29, 2011

New York City was slowly getting back to business as usual on Monday after Hurricane Irene but hundreds of thousands of people who normally travel in from the surrounding area faced a hellish commute as flooding knocked out some transit routes.

Downgraded to a tropical and then a post-tropical storm, Irene pelted eastern Canada with rain and 50-mile-per-hour (80-kph) winds late on Sunday after killing 20 people in the United States. It cut power to 5 million homes and businesses and choked towns with floodwaters, especially in Vermont and New Jersey.

Financial markets were expected to open as normal, albeit with reduced volume.

New York subways and air travel at major airports slowly started to resume service but there were expected to be delays and overcrowding and commuter rail services feeding the city from the north and from New Jersey were out indefinitely.

Brian Pearson, 59, who works at the CBS television show called "The 22" and took the Long Island Railroad to Penn Station, said he was "fashionably late," but at least he made it. "The show must go on," he added, as he bought a coffee from a street vendor outside the station.

Those who could avoid public transport seemed to be resorting to driving. Traffic was unusually heavy on Manhattan's West Side Highway in the early hours, with cars nearly bumper-to-bumper at one point.

In one small, residential northern Manhattan neighborhood that is ordinarily well-served by the subway system, no fewer than 13 cars-for-hire were idling on the side of the road at 5:30 a.m., waiting for fares.

"It's too early," said driver Nelson Peralta, who was just getting back to work after staying off the roads Sunday.

Wall Street was largely unaffected by the storm as was Ground Zero, where the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is soon to be observed.

Tennis on

The National Tennis Center in Queens escaped serious damage and the US Open was due to start on Monday as scheduled. A football game between the New York Giants and New York Jets was also due to go ahead on Monday evening at the Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey, despite forecasts that flooding in the state could get worse in the coming days.

Suburban New Jersey and rural Vermont were hit particularly hard by flooding. Both states were inundated with rain after an unusually wet summer season left the ground soaked and rivers swelled even before the storm rumbled through.

"It's very serious for us at the moment in Vermont. The top two-thirds of the state are inundated with rapidly rising waters, which we anticipate will be an issue for the next 24 hours," said Robert Stirewalt of the Vermont Emergency Management Agency.

The state's many waterways were overflowing, prompting hundreds of evacuations, and some 40,000 to 50,000 people were without power. New Jersey Transit said most rail service would remain suspended until further notice, though some bus service would resume on a limited basis.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie said "we dodged a bullet" after dire predictions failed to produce a catastrophe. But he urged people to stay home from work as the state recovered and pieced together its battered transit system.

"If you don't have to go to work tomorrow, don't go to work tomorrow," Christie told a news conference on Sunday. "Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day to travel around the state of New Jersey.” – Reuters




Tags: Hurricane | New York | floods | Commuters | Irene |

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