NEW YORK — The approach of Hurricane Irene prompted an extraordinary response from New York City officials: they shut down the city’s sprawling public transportation network, set up 81 emergency shelters and ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of thousands of people from their homes to avoid potentially devastating flood waters.
“Time is running out,” Bloomberg told nearly 370,000 residents of low-lying areas early on Saturday. “If you haven’t left you should leave now. Not later this evening, not this afternoon, immediately.”
In the end, many of those in evacuation zones chose to stay put — and faced few consequences for doing so. By the time Irene came ashore in New York on Sunday morning, it had been downgraded from a category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm, and while it lashed the city with high winds and heavy rains, widespread inundation of low-lying coastal areas did not occur.
Kinga Kusek, 33, rode out the storm in her home just a few blocks from Brighton Beach in southern Brooklyn. Less than two hours after the brunt of the storm had passed, she was out on the beach with dozens of others, several of whom were already wading into the ocean.
“I was scared. I was taking it seriously,” Kusek said. “In the end it was nothing.”