Hurricane Irene was supposed to be the worst storm to hit New York City in 26 years. 370,000 residents were urged to evacuate their homes this weekend, and some Manhattan businesses sold out of emergency supplies like flashlights, batteries and bread by Friday night.
I woke up this morning half expecting to see an urban wasteland in the East Village. Newscasts still warned of “torrential rains” and the “storm surge” threat was imminent.
So what did I see outside of my window? Light rain, scattered leaves and a few upturned newspaper dispensers. It seems that once again, New York has avoided the apocalypse!
>> Scroll down for photos of Hurricane Irene’s aftermath
Flooding near the East River
A walk through the neighborhood (from 2nd Avenue to the East River, and 8th Street to Houston) revealed that most of the storm damage occurred east of Avenue D.
While I was snapping photos on Avenue D, a resident of the Jacob Riis Houses suggested I head to 11th Street, where the walkways were flooded and impassable. There were no city workers on hand to address the flooding, although police cars were parked throughout the East Village.
The Jacob Riis Houses are just a few blocks from the Con Ed power plant, but surprisingly the power was not interrupted by the storm.
Walking east towards the FDR drive around 10 AM, the streets were littered with leaves and small branches. The entrance of the pedestrian overpass was flooded, and a swatch of the uptown FDR lanes was covered in water. Only the downtown lanes were open, and traffic was light.
As the rain became a drizzle, New Yorkers flocked to the East River Park to take photos of the flooding. Large sections of the playground and track were flooded, and the pedestrian walkway adjacent to the FDR drive had become a muddy river.
A woman in a dress and sandals waded up to her knees, while another woman in a rain poncho walked the length of the stream in thigh-deep water. Most onlookers weren’t as brave, and stood in shallow water while their friends snapped photos.
East River becomes a trash dump
The path along the East River in the park was not flooded, and provided a clear view of the Williamsburg Bridge. Less scenic was the steady stream of garbage floating down the river’s edge.
In the span of a few minutes, I spotted a deck chair, a condom and an array of Styrofoam chunks in the water. The EV Grieve blog posted a photo of another “found” object by the East River— this one of a more titillating variety.
To the right of the walkway, an enormous heap of trash bobbed up and down in an enclosed section of the river. The scene reminded me of the polluted urban rivers I had seen in Vietnam during my round the world trip,
Fallen trees and a dead rat at Tompkins Square Park
Tompkins Square Park was closed today, but wind damage was visible from the gates. Leaves and fallen branches were scattered across the grass, and a tree had fallen across a walkway at the south side of the park.
Jake, my alert traveling companion, thought he spotted a dead squirrel under a park gate; on closer inspection it appeared to be a giant rat. We were unable to confirm whether the rodent died of Hurricane Irene-related injuries or natural causes.
Newspaper dispensers suffer at Irene’s hands
In the heart of the East Village, the main casualty of Hurricane Irene appeared to be plastic newspaper dispensers. The yellow ones were particularly likely to tip over and fall into the street. Leaves were also hard hit, and were scattered throughout the neighborhood. Fortunately, no cars appeared to have been hit by falling branches.
As mentioned in our previous post, East Village businesses prepared for the storm by covering their windows in duct-tape and putting tarps and sand bags over their cellar doors. In hindsight, these precautions hardly seemed necessary since Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm before it hit the neighborhood.
Residents flocked to the few open business this morning, which included bodegas, delis and a nail salon.
Police cars and emergency vehicles were parked throughout the East Village, but I didn’t see any involved in rescue or recovery work.
Trash bags were scattered across some street corners, but it’s hard to tell if that was caused by the hurricane or was the normal state of affairs in the East Village.
How did Hurricane Irene affect you?
Share your story by leaving a comment below!