Hurricane Irene roared into New York City shortly after dawn Sunday with winds gusting to 50 mph and a storm surge threatening the boardwalks of Rockaway Beach and other low-lying areas of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan's financial district.
The eye of the Category I hurricane, which was about 480 miles wide, was predicted to slam into the city between late morning and noon EDT and then spend the rest of the morning dumping up to 16 inches of rain in parts of the nation's biggest city.
Even though they are saying that the storm is quote-on-quote weakening, hurricane winds are hurricane winds, John Searing, the deputy commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, told the New York Times before daybreak Sunday as he prepared to deal with the damage. Whether they say its 80 miles or 75 miles an hour, what's the physical difference in that?
Power remained mostly on in all five boroughs and -- so far -- authorities had not reported any fatalities, despite Irene's having taken, at latest count, 10 lives, half of those in North Carolina. Up and down the East Coast about 2.8 million people were without power, officials said.
Power outages were reported throughout the area: 150,338 on Long Island, according to the Long Island Power Authority. Consolidated Edison said power was out at more than 8,400 locations on Staten Island, according to utility's Web site, and about 5,000 in Queens and Brooklyn, the New York Times said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeated his call for residents to remain indoors to avoid flying debris and any possible downed power lines.
The city that never sleeps was virtually shut down, with airports, Broadway and all public transit shut down.
Authorities were bracing for the storm surge to increase at high tide, shortly after 8 am EDT. Between New York City and the eye of Irene waves rose as high as 23 feet. Irene was driving those massive waves in a northwesterly direction into Brooklyn and Queens and through the Verrazano Narrows into New York Harbor.
To the south, along the Jersey shore, the storm surge breached hastily built sand berms and boardwalks to wash up and down shoreline roadways.