New York reopened for business Monday, as subways got back into operation, though the city is moving slow in getting back into full swing. Yet 25 lives were claimed by Hurricane Irene's destructive path, and millions remain without power along the U.S. East Coast.
Hurricane Irene 2011 may not have been as damaging as some forecasts predicted, but from North Carolina, to Philadelphia and New Jersey, the storm's impact was severe, and weeks if not months may be required for full recovery.
Though forecasters overestimated the strength of Hurricane Irene as the massive storm made its way to New York, they accurately pinpointed the direction and timing of the storm's path along the U.S. East Coast, helping to reduce damage as Irene plodding along.
This was one of their better forecasts, Hans Graber, a professor of marine physics at the University of Miami said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. Definitely, it helped to save lives.
By Monday, some 25 lives had been claimed by Irene, from North Carolina to New York. In New York City, where Irene made a direct hit at tropical storm strength. No lives were claimed, however, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg had shut the city down in preparation by Saturday afternoon before approach.
In all, Hurricane Irene, the first hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since Ike in 2008, ravaged through 10 states, causing an estimated $7 billion to $13 billion in damage from strong winds, flooding, and storm surge. Almost six million homes and businesses across the 10 state path were left without power, though some has been restored by Monday.
The economic damage from Irene could have been worse, experts say.
It was much less bite than bark, Matt Carletti, specialty insurance analyst at JMP Securities, told CNN. Rounding up, it's a $10 billion event, not 20 or 30 or 40.
Finally, hurricane Irene has left the U.S. East Coast Monday, after plodding along 1,100 miles of coastline while inflicting whipping and drenching impact. Clean up and returning to normal will be a slow process, officials said.
But the city which feared the worst -- New York -- was spared from what could have been complete disaster. On Monday, New York was back in business, as subways resumed service and buses began running in the city. Commute traffic was lighter than normal as many in the region still lack power and others who fled remain out of town, but it was a quick turnaround for New York.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority announced that limited service resumed across the area at 5:40 a.m. Metro-North Railroad, which serves New York's northern suburbs, remains closed early Monday because of flooding and storm-related damage. Otherwise, trains were up and running Monday, putting New York back in business.
On most weekdays, New York's subways carry as many as eight million passengers per day.
The subway is running very well. I can't believe it, they did a great, Domonic Cecala, who took an E train from the city's west side to lower Manhattan Monday morning, told The Associated Press. If they hadn't stopped the trains on Saturday, it would have been a mess.
Trains were only one-third as crowded as normal at 7 a.m. The E train arriving at New York's Port Authority bus station was sparse, with many open seats, but it filled more after stopping at the station as commuters from New Jersey who rode operating NJ Transit bus lines into the city hopped on, making the commute to Lower Manhattan for the work day.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg shut the city down Saturday in advance of Hurricane Irene in an unprecedented move. City subways and bus lines closed through early Monday morning. Evacuation orders in place for Lower Manhattan were lifted Sunday afternoon.
The New York Stock Exchange also opened as usual Monday Morning.
New York's MTA said it expects service to return to near normal by Monday on six on the Long Island Railroad's 11 branches but that riders can expect some cancellations. Also, most New Jersey Transit trains remain out of action on Monday, further lessening traffic into New York.
PATH trains back and forth from the city to New Jersey are operating on schedule, however.
The center of Irene pass over New York's Central Park Sunday at mid-morning as the tropical storm, no longer a hurricane after hitting Long Island at hurricane strength, was packing winds of 65 miles per hour. Damage to New York was considerably less than feared, however, as the storm's easing and city preparations in advance mitigated damage.
But others aren't as lucky as New York, as Irene's path inflicted heavy damage from North Carolina to New Jersey and beyond. In New Jersey, storm surge from the Atlantic and heavy rainfall caused severe flooding. Long Island, New York, which took impact from Irene at hurricane strength, had hundreds of thousands left without power and large numbers of trees down and strewn about.
The worst damage from Hurricane Irene was in North Carolina, however, where the storm made first landfall, becoming the first hurricane to strike the U.S. since Ike in 2008. Irene made landfall near Cape Lookout, N.C. on Saturday, in the Outer Banks, with storm surges of about eight feet.
Almost half a million residents were left without power and five people were killed in North Carolina from Irene. Damage in North Carolina could total more than $500 million, one official said.
The National Hurricane Center had forecast Irene would reach Category 4 along the East Coast wtih winds of at least 131 miles per hour but that didn't happen, as colder Atlantic waters calmed the storm to a Category 1 before it reached Long Island. The biggest Irene ever got was a Category 3 storm, with winds of 120 miles per hour.
The hurricane center also forecast Irene would reach Category 4 level, with maximum sustained winds of 131 mph. It only reached Category 3, with winds of 120 mph. Hours before the storm made landfall in New York, the center was forecasting it would arrive as a Category 1 hurricane. By the time it reached the city, it had weakened to a tropical storm with winds of 65 mph.
Still, the storm traveled almost exactly along the path the forecast center projected, and the National Hurricane Center did an excellent job in nailing down the forecast, said Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, in a news conference Sunday.
In the end, Irene's damage was significant and now a clean-up begins that could take weeks if not months, but the pinpoint forecasting and preparations made by officials and residents from North Carolina to New York and beyond helped mitigate damage that could have been much worse.