Recovery from Irene slowly gets underway
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- In New York City, where people had braced for a disaster-movie scene of water swirling around skyscrapers, life had basically returned to normal Tuesday. In New Jersey, Westchester and parts of Long Island, power outages and flooding remained huge issues.
Thankfully, most mass transit was back to normal, with subways and buses were up and running again. The majority of riders on the hard-hit Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad were able to get onto trains, as well.
Only three of the LIRR lines were still suspended, covering the eastern end of the Long Island.
The 11-state death toll, which had stood at 21 as of Sunday night, rose sharply as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were electrocuted by downed power lines.
An apparently vacant home exploded in an evacuated, flooded area in Pompton Lakes, N.J., early Monday, and firefighters had to battle the flames from a boat. In the Albany, N.Y., suburb of Guilderland, police rescued two people Monday after their car was swept away. Rescuers found them three hours later, clinging to trees along the swollen creek.
"It's going to take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude," President Barack Obama warned as he promised the government would do everything in its power to help people get back on their feet.
Airlines said it would be days before the thousands of passengers stranded by Irene find their way home. Some Amtrak service in the Northeast was limited or suspended. Commuter train service between New Jersey and New York City resumed Tuesday, except for one line that was still dealing with flooding.
Throughout the region, hundreds of roads were impassable because of flooding or fallen trees, and some bridges had simply given way, including a 156-year-old hand-hewn, wooden covered bridge across Schoharie Creek in Blenheim, N.Y.
At least three towns in New York remained cut off by flooded roads and bridges.
NEW YORK CITY
A happy Mayor Michael Bloomberg congratulated firefighters who motored through flooded streets on Staten Island to save dozens of stranded residents. Using boats and live vests, the firefighters saved 3 infants and more than 60 adults after a pond flooded during Tropical Storm Irene. Bloomberg says the coordinated response by city agencies during the storm was top-notch. The city is still cleaning up from the massive storm, but Bloomberg says the damage could have been much worse. He also thanked residents for heeding evacuation orders and for staying smart during the bad weather. Bloomberg says the city has a few things to learn from the storm. The city government web site crashed because of over-use and they'll work to fix that for the next big event.
Meanwhile, nearly half a million customers are still without power in the New York City metro area. Those include about 70,000 in the city and Westchester and 324,000 on Long Island. Con Edison says it hopes to restore power to its city customers by late Tuesday evening.
It'll take longer in Westchester because flooding and downed trees are hampering crews from reaching damaged lines. Service in Westchester is expected to be back by late Thursday. Con Edison says the hardest hit areas in the city were Queens and Staten Island.
At the peak of the storm, 187,000 Con Edison customers had no power.
Long Island Power Authority says it has restored service to 100,000 customers and hopes to have 90 percent of the rest restored by Friday. The last 10 percent might have to wait throught the weekend.
NORTH OF THE CITY
Dealing with Irene's aftermath in New York's northern suburbs is the next ordeal for those slammed over the weekend by the tropical storm. Roadways remain closed and thousands of people around New York are still without power the day after Tropical Storm Irene slogged up the East Coast and dumped buckets of rain on the region. A long stretch of the New York State Thruway between Albany and Syracuse remains closed due to flooding. Irene poured record rainfalls into already saturated rivers, streams and creeks. State officials and downstream residents warily eyed major dams holding back drinking water reservoirs. The Pepacton Dam in hard hit Delaware County was spilling early Monday and people who live below it were encouraged - but not ordered - to leave for a while.
Residents are watching rising creeks and rivers as more than 900,000 homes were without power, more National Guard soldiers were deployed to clean-ups, and major highways and roads remained closed. At least six deaths have been blamed on Irene.
Record flooding was expected to keep thousands of New Jerseyans out of their homes Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands more remained without power as utility crews labored to replace downed lines and repair flood-damaged substations. "We're not out of the woods yet regarding this storm," Gov. Chris Christie told a news conference Monday night in Manville, the scene of major flooding. Christie said waters had reached or passed record levels at nine river locations, and he warned that the Passaic River had not yet crested.
Longtime residents of Little Falls, a flood-prone community along the Passaic River, said this was the worst flooding they'd ever seen. And the water was not expected to stop rising until Tuesday.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy plans to get a closer look at storm damage in Fairfield County. The governor will visit Stamford, Bridgeport and hard-hit Fairfield on Tuesday to look at the impact of Tropical Storm Irene, speak with those affected by the storm and get updates from local officials on the recovery effort. Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau says three homes on Fairfield Beach Road have been condemned, including one that collapsed into Long Island Sound and another that had ocean water coursing through it during the storm. He said twenty other homes were deemed unsafe but can be repaired. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney will be touring storm damage along the shoreline in Madison, Clinton and Old Saybrook.
The number of Connecticut utility customers without power in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene has been cut to about 510,000. That is down from about 770,000 who lost power during the storm, and includes 426,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers and about 84,000 customers of United Illuminating Co. CL&P says over 288,000 customers had their power restored in the first 24 hours after the storm. But Mitch Gross, a company spokesman says crews are still dealing with about 900 blocked roads across the state. About 800 CL&P crews and 210 United Illuminating crews are working to fix downed power lines, poles and other equipment, working 16-hour shifts. Click here for more on storm damage in Connecticut.
Hundreds of thousands of customers on Long Island lost power during Hurricane Irene. Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano says National Guard troops were en route to Long Beach to help deal with flooding. Rough surf there pushed a lifeguard building smashing into the boardwalk, while the winds nearly blew Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett away. The powerful storm surge swept across the South Shore of the island at high tide. Still, emergency management officials described the flooding as mostly minor. Nearly 400,000 remained without power.
NYC TRANSIT: Full service has been restored on subways and buses. More information available at MTA.info.
LIRR: Service remains suspended on the Long Beach, Montauk and Oyster Bay Branches. Port Jefferson branch is suspended east of Huntington. Ronkonkoma branch is suspended east of Ronkonkoma. There is no train service from Hunterspoint Avenue or Long Island City. Everything else is beck to normal.
METRO-NORTH: Metro-North Railroad has resumed regular weekday service on the Hudson Line, New Haven main line, and lower and upper Harlem lines. The MTA says, however, that service remains suspended due to extensive damage caused by Irene on some lines that feed into the New Haven line and on the Port Jervis line west of the Hudson River.
NJTRANSIT: Most New Jersey Transit trains are back in business Tuesday days after service was suspended because of Hurricane Irene. NJ Transit spokesman Penny Bassett Hackett says trains are running fairly well. However, commuters should check their schedules. There is no service between New Brunswick and Trenton because of flooding. But trains are operating every 20 minutes to New York City from New Brunswick. Buses and trains are not running from the Route 23 Transit Center in Wayne because of flooding.
PATH: PATH trains are running on a regular schedule between northern New Jersey and Manhattan.
AMTRAK: Amtrak service between New York City and Boston is planned to operate on Tuesday, including all Acela Express trains and most Northeast Regional service. As of early this Monday evening, about a half-mile of Amtrak right-of-way remained submerged near Trenton, N.J. As the water levels recede, Amtrak engineering forces will make repairs to the track and signal control infrastructure. Updates will continue to be provided and an estimate for restoration of full service south of New York is not yet available. More information is available by calling 800-872-7245 or visiting Amtrak.com.
LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty airports have reopened, but travel remains difficult. The flight tracking service FlightAware says nearly 1,500 flights were canceled Monday, on top of nearly 12,000 grounded over the weekend.
When Hurricane Irene unleashed its wrath on Newfane, Vt., Martin and Sue Saylor were among the lucky ones. All they lost was the road to their hillside home, and their utilities.
The Saylors survived, but at a cost: Rivers of rainwater coursed down their hill, washing out the road that leads to their road.
Just below their home deep in the woods, the Rock River rose up out of its banks, claiming another roadway.
Suddenly, the Saylors' feet became their sole transportation.
"Stranded, nowhere to go," said Martin Saylor, 57, standing by the Rock River on Monday, waiting for his brother to bring in supplies. "Don't want to leave my house because I don't know who's going to break in or whatever. I just don't know what to do."
The capricious storm, which veered into Vermont in its final hours, dumped up to 11 inches of rain in some places and turned placid little mountain streams into roaring brown torrents that smashed buildings, ripped homes from their foundation and washed out roads all across the state.
At least three people died in Vermont, and at least 40 overall.
In North Carolina, where Irene blew ashore along the Outer Banks on Saturday before heading for New York and New England, 1,000 people were still in emergency shelters, awaiting word on their homes.
Early estimates put Irene's damage at $7 billion to $10 billion, much smaller than the impact of monster storms such as Hurricane Katrina, which did more than $100 billion in damage. Irene's effects are small compared to the overall U.S. economy, which produces about $14 trillion worth of goods and services every year.
While people without electric power waited for the lights to come back on and communities from New York to Maine took stock of the storm, homeowners and towns in land-locked Vermont faced a sobering new reality - no way in or out. Washed-out roads and bridges left them - for now - inaccessible by automobile.
"We always had that truism that said 'Yup, yah can't get there from here.' In fact, that's come to pass down here," said Newfane Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli. "There are certain pockets where you can't get there from here, at least not by a car."
About a dozen towns and an unknown number of homes were cut off by damage from Irene's floodwaters and rain, including that of the town's emergency management coordinator, David Moore. State transportation maintenance crews and contractors hired by the state were working to restore travel on some of the 260 roads that had been closed due to storm damage. Vermont also had 30 highway bridges closed.
In small Newfane (pop. 1,710), the storm's effects were staggering: About 150 people were unable to drive cars to their homes, 30 of them effectively stranded in theirs, seven bridges were washed out, two homes were knocked from their foundations by surging floodwaters and one 19th century grist mill smashed into kindling wood right where it stood.
Gov. Peter Shumlin called it the worst flooding in a century.
For the Saylors, there were more immediate concerns.
"I need a shower," said Sue Saylor. "I need water. I need electricity. It's rough."
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