By William M. Reilly
The outer reaches of Hurricane Irene slammed into a batten-downed and withdrawn New York City in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, knocking power out for thousands of people in several boroughs, with the brunt of the storm not expected until mid-day.
The city was under National Weather Service hurricane and flood warnings and a tornado watch until dawn Sunday. The convergence of the heart of Irene passing over or adjacent to the metropolis, a new moon and high tide Sunday, just a few hours before mid-day, raised the threat of a heavy toll from storm-surge flooding.
Residents were told to withdraw indoors until late in the day when the bulk of the storm has passed.
For the first time ever, evacuations were ordered for about 370,000 people in low-lying parts of the city and the vast New York City Transit Authority machine ground to a planned stop Saturday afternoon, with even the 24-hour subway service halted. Trains had to be placed out of harm’s way from flood-prone marshalling yards.
Long Island Railroad, Metro North, New Jersey Transit commuter rail lines and PATH trains between the Big Apple and New Jersey stopped as the outer bands of rain hit the area.