Hurricane Irene has been largely deemed a dud by New Yorkers, who were quick with the jokes and claims of media-induced premature panic. By Monday morning, with the local death toll at one, we were somewhat frustrated by the lack of public transportation, but largely laughing about a weekend spent cooped up with bad movies and too much snack food. Basically, we got lucky. Not as fortunate were states like North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and even the vast, mysterious lands known as upstate New York. Outside of the city, the storm was responsible for at least 24 deaths, and eastern Canada was still experiencing severe weather on Monday from the weakened tropical storm.
"The impacts of this storm will be felt for some time, and the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer," said President Obama on Sunday night. He wasn't really referring to New York City. But as close as New Jersey, where Irene hit as a Category 1, at least four deaths were reported, roads and public transportation remained shuttered on Monday, and 775,000 homes were without electricity as of last night. Connecticut also experienced "extensive damage" to its electrical systems, while Massachusetts reported one death and hundreds of thousands without power.
Even upstate, and in nearby Vermont, people were displaced. "This is a really tough battle for us," said Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, not at all echoing the well-prepared, and lucky, Mayor Bloomberg. "We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best and unfortunately got delivered the worst," said Shumlin. His small state had about 260 of its roads affected, many of them submerged completely, in the worst local flooding since 1927. Up in the Catskills, where it's similarly rural, damaged areas looked like a "war zone," according to the Times, with residents worried about food and water for their neighbors.
And it was worse further South. North Carolina's Outer Banks were hit by the storm at its strongest, and the state is reporting at least six deaths. While New York City is motoring along at close to full-speed, those without power in North Carolina and Virginia have been promised restoration ... by Friday. In all, at least four million Americans were left without power for some time.
So far, the U.S. government has estimated that the wind alone did over $1 billion worth of damage, with Chris Chistie estimating on Meet the Press that New Jersey alone had damages "in the billions of dollars, if not in the tens of billions of dollars." Total insurance costs are already being estimated between $3 billion and $5 billion. While it wasn't the worse-case scenario for our city — and certainly won't cost us the tens of billions that a real doomsday would have — it wasn't just a nagging drizzle either, even if that's all we felt firsthand.