taxi speeds by on 42nd Street at Times Square in New York 31.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Peter Jones)
BATTERY PARK, NEW YORK – Lower Manhattan was almost entirely devoid of
people early Sunday morning as the much-anticipated Hurricane Irene
battered the city from the south.
RELATED:Bloomberg evacuates 300,000 New Yorkers before stormEast Coast Jewish communities brace for Hurricane IreneAs
of late Saturday night, Hurricane Irene was heading north at a rate of
16 mph (25.75 kph) from North Carolina toward Virginia, exhibiting winds
between 39 mph (63 kph) and 80 mph (129 kph), a NBC affiliate station
in North Carolina reported.
Violent winds and heavy rain
swept through the empty streets of the Financial District which had been
evacuated by order of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg together with other
low-lying parts of the city because of the risk of flooding.
The National Weather Service canceled flash flood watches in North Carolina counties at 8:19 pm EST, according to the report.
In New York, not
a soul could be seen on Wall Street, where the American flag that
usually drapes the stock exchange was taken down because of the strong
gusts of wind.
Brian Thomas and a friend were one of the few people walking around the area in the downpour.
just came back from a hurricane dinner party with friends,” said Thomas
as he jumped into a cab taking him to higher ground in Chelsea. “It was
a lot of fun. We were watching the news and laughing at it because so
much of it is ridiculous.”
Hurricane Irene on Saturday charged up the East Coast
punishing parts of North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware with
torrential rain and strong winds and leaving at least six people dead.
Israel Zoberman of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach was at
home on Saturday afternoon bracing for the arrival of the category 1
storm projected to pass within a few dozen miles of the city.
must tell you the sense of hopelessness you have is an amazing feeling,”
he said over the phone from the coastal town. “If you are on the
oceanfront or other parts of the city you cannot walk. The wind will
knock you down. The boardwalk is in danger from the waters of the ocean
that have penetrated quite far out.”
The Reform rabbi said
members of the Virginia Beach’s Jewish community were safe indoors and
that so far there little damage had been wrought by the storm.
had some floods in the area and we lost power early in the day for a
short time but there are a lot of people without power in the state,”
Airline, rail and transit systems in New York and
other eastern cities initiated sweeping weekend shutdowns and slowdowns
on Saturday as Hurricane Irene bore down on the region.
millions of air travelers, train passengers and subway and bus riders
scrambled to adjust their routines, work commutes and vacations as
transportation networks gradually scale back operations to minimize
Coordinated transportation-related closures or
slowdowns, often seen during winter storms in the Northeast, were mostly
announced on Friday to give travelers enough time to adjust and ensure
they stay away from Irene's fury.
New York's subway system, which
carries 7 million riders daily and operates the largest fleet in the
world, had never closed due to weather. The storied Staten Island Ferry
was to suspend service Saturday night.
"You can listen to the
noise of the elevated train. That's not going to be here this afternoon,
and I think that's the message that people have to start
understanding," said Michael Bloomberg, urging residents
in designated evacuation areas to heed warnings to leave.
Subways were not expected to resume until Monday.Reuters contributed to this report. For updates on the storm, follow @GilShefler on Twitter.