Hurricane Irene: New York City okay

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NEW YORK (AP) - Tropical Storm Irene unleashed furious wind and rain on New York on Sunday and sent seawater surging into the Manhattan streets. But the city appeared to escape the worst fears of urban disaster - vast power outages, hurricane-shattered skyscraper windows and severe flooding.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says residents who had been ordered out of their homes in low-lying areas will be allowed to return Sunday afternoon.

Bloomberg says the evacuation order put in place for Hurricane Irene will be lifted as of 3 p.m. He had ordered more than 370,000 people out of those areas. They were mostly in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Not everyone waited, and people had already started making their way back to their homes. Some defied the order and didn't evacuate in the first place.

Bloomberg says he thinks the city made the right decisions in preparing for Hurricane Irene.

He made the comment as reporters were briefly allowed into a meeting Bloomberg had with city commissioner and officials from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Bloomberg says he visited one of the city's emergency shelters on Sunday morning. He praised city residents, saying the public really cooperated.

The city's biggest power company, Consolidated Edison, said it was optimistic it would not have to cut electricity to save its equipment. The Sept. 11 museum, a centerpiece of the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, said on Twitter that none of its memorial trees were lost.

And Irene made landfall as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds, not the 100-mph hurricane that had churned up the East Coast and dumped a foot of water or more on less populated areas in the South.

"Just another storm," said Scott Beller, who was at a Lowe's store in the Long Island hamlet of Centereach, looking for a generator because his power was out.

Irene weakened to winds of 60 mph, well below the 74 mph dividing line between a hurricane and tropical storm. The system was still massive and powerful, forming a figure six that covered the Northeast. It was moving twice as fast as the day before.

The storm killed at least 14 people and left 4 million homes and businesses without power. It unloaded more than a foot of water on North Carolina and spun off tornadoes in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

And even after the storm passes in the Northeast, the danger will persist. Rivers could crest after the skies the clear, and the ground in most of the region is saturated from a summer of persistent rain.

But from North Carolina to New Jersey, the storm appeared to have fallen well short of the doomsday predictions. Across the Eastern Seaboard, at least 2.3 million people were given orders to evacuate, though it was not clear how many obeyed them.

Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center, said the storm wasn't just a lot of hype with little fury. He praised authorities, from meteorologists to emergency managers at all levels, for taking the threat seriously.

"They knew they had to get people out early," Mayfield said. "I think absolutely lives were saved."

Under its first hurricane warning in a quarter-century, the nation's largest city had taken extensive precautions. There were sandbags on Wall Street, tarps over subway grates and plywood on storefront windows. The subway stopped rolling. Broadway and baseball were canceled.

John F. Kennedy International Airport recorded a tropical storm-force wind gust of 58 mph. Kennedy, where on a normal day tens of thousands of passengers would be arriving from points around the world, was quiet. So were LaGuardia and Newark airports. So was Grand Central Terminal, where the great hall was cleared out entirely. Part of the Holland Tunnel was closed.

And 370,000 people in the city had been ordered to move to safer ground, although they appeared in great numbers to have stayed put. A storm surge of at least 3 1/2 feet was recorded in New York Harbor, and water pressed into Manhattan from three sides - the harbor, the Hudson River and the East River.

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