New York City's subways, the veins that keep the city that never sleeps alive 24 hours a day, will start reopening Monday morning after fears of Hurricane Irene led anxious officials to shut them down.
Along with the subways, the city's John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports were also scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. Monday, officials said, while LaGuardia is scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m., though there were concerns about how many airport workers would be on the job without the subways running.
Irene was expected to wallop the city, which had led Mayor Mike Bloomberg to order 370,000 people to evacuate their homes and to close the subways and halt all buses 18 hours before the storm was expected to arrive.
As city officials breathed a sigh of relief today that the storm did not bruise the Big Apple as badly as predicted, the mayor defended his decisions to err on the side of caution.
"The good news is the worst is over," he said. "We dodged a bullet there."
In another bit of good news for the city, crime was much lower than usual Saturday night, with only 45 arrests, Bloomberg said. On a typical Saturday night in August, there are 345 arrests, he said.
But the storm did not pass without making an impression on the city. As the center of tropical storm Irene passed through, the East River breached its seawall and major highways around the nation's largest city shut down due to heavy rainfall and flooding.
The neon lights of Times Square were flashing this morning, but few people or cars were there to see them.
The new trees at the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan stood strong as the heavy rain beat down.
Water from New York's East River breached the seawall in lower and midtown Manhattan at Wall St. and South Street, 33rd Street and 1st Avenue, 41st Street and 1st Avenue, and 65th Street and 1st Avenue. Work crews swarmed the area, attempting to halt water from flowing down the streets, where it could affect transformers in lower Manhattan and flood into the subway system.
Water flowed through the streets in lower Manhattan and work crews pumped out water from several flooded buildings. One 31-story building on the corner of Fletcher and Front streets had 15 to 20 feet of water in its basement. Engineers tried to pump out the water, fearing an explosion if they couldn't contain it.
Con Ed reported this morning that 72,000 customers were without power in New York City, 25,000 of whom are in Queens.
City officials estimated that there were more than 700 trees down, split, or uprooted throughout the five boroughs.
Sections of the New York State Thruway, the Henry Hudson Parkway, the FDR Drive, and the Belt Parkway were closed this morning due to flooding.
The evacuation orders left many parts of the city, including parts of lower Manhattan, looking like a ghost town. People in low-lying neighborhoods from Battery Park in southern Manhattan to Coney Island and the Rockaway beaches were ordered to leave their homes. City workers entered high-rise housing projects to deliver the message personally.
"It is better to take precautions and get out of the storm. Mother nature is much stronger than all of us," Bloomberg said Friday.
On Saturday morning, residents awoke to find garbage cans overturned on the street in preparation for the strong winds. Grocery stores were flooded with people scrambling to stock up on last minute supplies and food.
"The super market was a mob scene," said a Lower East Side resident who asked to remain anonymous. "Many shelves were empty. The milk and eggs were sold out. I had to go to a few places before I could find any bread."