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New York Takes Cover As Irene Hits


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie. The storm that began as Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to tropical storm, but it remains powerful and dangerous. Millions are without power. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated, and there's widespread flooding. Eleven deaths have been attributed to the storm. Irene made landfall at Coney Island in Brooklyn, but the entire New York metropolitan area is feeling the effects of the storm. NPR's Jim Zarroli is in Manhattan and joins us now. Jim, what's the scene where you're at right now?

JIM ZARROLI: Well, you know, the sun is about to come out. I mean, you can see it sort of peeking through the clouds. It's still kind of breezy and it's still drizzly. But, really, the worst of the storm is over from now. And I was out here a few hours ago and you just didn't see anybody on the streets. But now you're starting to see people come out, just a lot of them, just curiosity seekers, wanting to see how much damage there's been.

YDSTIE: Um-huh. And what about damage? Is there much

ZARROLI: Well, here in the city, and I'm in Manhattan, you know, you could see sort of branches down. I saw some trees that were knocked over in Riverside Park. I was up in Central Park and there - you know, there's sort of a lot of areas of flooding there. But, I think, if you go outside of Manhattan into other parts of the city, you're going to see more damage, more flooding. A lot of roads are closed, a lot of major highways have been closed because of flooding. The Westside Highway, parts of it are closed, are shut down, parts of the FDR Drive. And then if you go farther out, I think the flooding, especially in some of the low-lying coastal areas was just a lot more serious

YDSTIE: And there are reports that both the Hudson and the East Rivers are overflowing their banks. What can you tell us about that?

ZARROLI: Yeah, that was the case a little while ago. Some water came over from the Hudson to Battery Park City, which was one of the areas in the evacuation zone, at the tip of Manhattan. But I'm told that that water has now receded. There also was about a foot of water that came from the East River up to South Street Seaport, which a lot of people might know as sort of a tourist area. That's at the very bottom of the East River. But I think the flooding was much worse if you go sort of to the beach areas of Brooklyn and Queens to Long Island. In northern New Jersey the high tide was about 8 o'clock in the southern parts of the city, and that was when you saw, you know, saw some storm surge. But I think a lot of that has begun to recede.

YDSTIE: How about the wind? Is that continuing to be a factor?

ZARROLI: You know, there is some wind. This was never really a storm about wind though. I think the real danger was flooding and the heavy rain. I mean, this was a storm that lasted a while. It was raining all night and - so you got a lot of rain accumulating in places. That sort of always happens in the city when there's a big storm, when there's a snow storm or a rain storm. You get, you know, overflowing gutters and roadways that can flood. But, you know, for now a lot of that of sort of - seems to be - the worst is over.

YDSTIE: Jim, most of the time you're concerned about financial markets in your role as an economic and business reporter. What about disruptions to the market opening tomorrow? Are there likely to be disruptions?

ZARROLI: Well, I know there's been a lot of concern about that, but at this point there are plans to close anything. I think the New York Mercantile Exchange said they will be open. The real concern, even if the flooding doesn't prove to be a problem in that area, the concern is that mass transit is completely shut down. There are no buses, there are no subways, there aren't very many taxis, at least right now. You know, some of the roadways into the city have been shut down. So it's really hard to get to work. And that's going to make it a lot harder if you work in the financial district to show up tomorrow. So that ought to disrupt activity there for - at least for the morning.

YDSTIE: NPR's Jim Zarroli in New York. Thanks very much, Jim.

ZARROLI: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.