Come on Irene

Was hurricane threat to New York over-hyped by the authorities and the media?


    When Irene struck New York, New Jersey and Connecticut she roared ashore as a VERY serious category one hurricane.

    More than 20 people died as she swept up the US east coast.

    Driving wind and rain lashed beaches and brought record flooding to the so called "tri-state area". Repairs could run into billions.

    Over a million customers lost power in the storm and roads and railway lines became inundated - something that's only likely to get worse in the days to come as rivers and streams crest.

    In the Zone A low-lying areas of New York City there was flooding too, but nothing like as bad as had been feared.

    I don't know about you but I had visions of a flooded subway system and skyscrapers with blown-out windows.

    In the end the winds were light in Manhattan and the rain relentless but the anticipated storm surge in the harbour wasn't enough to seriously breach the sea walls in the financial district.

    Questions are now being asked about whether the media and the authorities hyped Irene too much?

    At a news conference in lower Manhattan, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, defended his decision to shutter public transport and order mandatory evacuations saying he'd do it again.

    Bloomberg is a third termer who who probably won't run again and he's someone who doesn't mess around and his city can easily afford the costs of increased policing and protection measures despite the economic downturn.

    It's worth noting that in the US there's a history of city mayors losing office or popularity because of bad decisions about weather.

    In 1969 New York's John Lindsay mishandled a major snowstorm and the backlash cost him his job.

    So Mayor Bloomberg took a calculated risk in closing the entire transit system and bringing in mandatory evacuations.

    He obviously preferred to be criticised for going too far rather than, as happened to Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, for being unprepared.

    On the morning after Irene blew through the five boroughs New Yorkers ventured out soon after sunrise and were relieved to find their city had dodged a bullet.

    The people I spoke to were largely sympathetic towards Bloomberg's decision to close the city down ahead of the storm.

    "You've got to prepare for the worst we don't want anything like Katrina happening we don't want people stuck in the city if they need to get out so, yeah, I'm glad he did it and I hope next time he does the same thing," said one person.

    Another said: "I just think they could have left the subways open a little longer yesterday but you know overall it's better to over-prepare than under-prepare."

    "Broadway was closed, it's crazy," said a third person. "I was worried when they cancelled Broadway but they also managed to clear every store out of every single thing they have so money was spent that way, right?"

    Now deadly Irene has stormed off to New England and Canada while here in New York commuters are struggling to work on Monday because the mass transit system is struggling to get back to normal.

    There are almost no trains coming into famous stations like Grand Central and Penn.

    It's as if the city that never sleeps is having a lie-in on a Monday morning.

    Hurricane Irene may have exited the Big Apple but New Yorkers will long look back on her as the storm that shut down their city but which could have been so much worse.

    The people of New Jersey and Long Island, where trees are down, flooding is widespread and drinking water needs to be boiled, may beg to differ.



    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Many Pentecostal churches in the Niger Delta offer to deliver people from witchcraft and possession - albeit for a fee.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Why a hipster, vegan, green tech economy is not sustainable

    Improving eco-efficiency within a capitalist growth-oriented system will not save the environment.