Cleanup begins in wake of Irene

August 29, 2011

(Flickr/City of Greenville, NC)
Damage caused by Hurricane Irene in Greenville, N.C.
(AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A man walks on top of a wall next to a flooded highway in New Brunswick, N.J. Sunday.

Irene is gone but the trouble it started isn't finished by a long-shot. It could be days or even weeks before some of the millions
without electricity get it back. Airlines will be busy untangling masses of stranded passengers delayed by canceled flights. And some rivers in New York and New England pose potentially major flood threats today.

And then there's the damage. It hasn't been tallied up yet but one private estimate is up to $7 billion.

Flooding is widespread in Vermont and the Mohawk River is over its banks in parts of New York. Officials say they may be seeing
500-year flood conditions on the Mohawk. New York City's three main airports will be reopening today as will part of the subway system. Commuters have been warned of long lines and waits.

Airports in Philadelphia and Washington are open and Boston's transit system is reopening. So are Atlantic City casinos.

Aviation officials in Chicago say almost 400 flights have been canceled at both of Chicago's airports because of Tropical
Storm Irene. Airlines canceled more than 300 flights at O'Hare International Airport and around 70 at Midway International Airport on Sunday.

Chicago's Department of Aviation says most of the cancellations are due to East Coast weather conditions. There aren't any delays. More than 11,500 flights have been canceled nationwide.

Weather officials downgraded Irene from a hurricane to a tropical storm Sunday as the storm's winds lost speed. As a hurricane, Irene had already unloaded more than a foot of water on North Carolina, spun off tornadoes in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, and left 4 million homes and businesses without power. At least 18 people died in the storm.

Meantime, New York City subway service is back on track for the morning rush. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said limited service resumed at 5:40 a.m. Monday. It said service remains suspended on Metro-North Railroad because of heavy damage from Tropical Storm Irene. Metro-North serves regions north of New York City, from Westchester County to southern Connecticut.

The MTA's decision Saturday to halt all subways, buses and commuter trains in preparation for the storm had threatened to disrupt the start of the work week for millions of New Yorkers. It was the first time a natural disaster ever shut the system down.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is making no apologies for ordering hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate for a hurricane that ended up doing relatively little damage in New York. Bloomberg said he was unwilling to risk the life of a single New Yorker in the face of Hurricane Irene. He spent days urging people to get out of harm's way and to prepare for storm. Irene caused some flooding and other problems in New York but no deaths or injuries.

The mayor said he's not sure whether it's the city's preparations or luck that prevented the toll from being worse. But he said he would make the same decisions again.