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Did hurricane of hype engulf New York?
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Aug 28, 2011

New York airports to reopen Monday: FAA
New York (AFP) Aug 28, 2011 - The three major airports in the New York area closed ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irene will reopen early Monday, officials said Sunday.

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark airport in New Jersey will open at 6:00 am (1000 GMT), while LaGuardia reopens at 7:00 am (1100 GMT), the Federal Aviation Administration said on its website.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said that departures at JFK and Newark would resume slightly later at 12:00 pm.

The airports were shut down Saturday as Hurricane Irene moved closer and 10,000 flights were cancelled in the eastern United States. The storm passed New York Sunday, leaving a trail of power outages and floods.

Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the area's airport and port facilities, had said earlier that air service would only begin late Monday "at best."

He said normal service would hopefully resume Tuesday.

American Airlines, British Airways, Air France and other carriers have called off many flights to and from Europe and Asia on Monday.

Hurricane Irene may have been a category one storm, but some wondered if hot air from the media and politicians wasn't what really blew off the scale.

New York is the biggest US city, media capital, financial powerhouse and one of the most photogenic places on Earth -- Hollywood's favorite backdrop for disaster movies.

So, given the chance to report on a rare named storm at their doorstep, TV networks headquartered in Manhattan did not disappoint.

Beautifully coiffed and tanned weathermen competed to paint more terrifying scenarios.

Even before Irene was anywhere near New York, one big network aired a colorful report about a possible urban apocalypse, with JFK airport under 20 feet of water, Wall Street submerged, and the subway system "knocked out."

During the actual storm, mostly youthful TV reporters -- and stars like CNN's Anderson Cooper -- took the tone to yet another level.

Dripping wet, wind scraping at their microphones, the reporters stood resolutely in the familiar pose of hurricane journalists -- water everywhere and bodies bent to the gale.

Never mind that during one network's report, ordinary people could be seen calmly walking around while the correspondent seemingly battled to stay upright. Or that sometimes the extent of flooding shown in New York seemed to have been exaggerated through clever camera angles.

Then there was the indomitable reporter who did an entire stand-up while being lathered in a brown, foamy and very smelly substance that sounded suspiciously like sewage overflow.

"Conditions continue to deteriorate in a big way," he declared, as he started to disappear under the mystery foam in front of a beach. "Doesn't smell great."

As Irene faded from hurricane to plain windy day, the wall-to-wall coverage might have seemed overcooked. Maybe not.

Journalists were following what politicians told them and politicians said they were following what the National Hurricane Center and other weather experts told them.

President Barack Obama, fighting for reelection next year, quickly showed he was in charge.

Breaking off a Martha's Vineyard vacation with conference calls and emergency meetings, Obama at least ensured he didn't repeat George W. Bush's mistake in 2005 of seemingly not paying enough attention to the truly deadly Hurricane Katrina.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, seen by some as a dark horse contender for Republican presidential candidate, confronted Irene in his own particular media savvy way.

Not only did he order one million people out of their homes, he loudly told everyone to "get the hell off the beach." They did, fleeing in droves -- and Christie's authority was boosted.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- still stung by criticism that the city failed miserably in a huge snow storm last winter -- shut down New York before so much as a rain drop fell.

In an unprecedented order he told 370,000 people in Brooklyn and other outlying neighborhoods they had to evacuate. Then he closed the entire Subway, train and bus system, turning the city into a ghost town.

When Irene shuffled off Sunday, having caused minimal damage in New York, but leaving the transport system facing days of chaos, Bloomberg said he'd been proved right.

"The bottom line is that I would make the same decisions again, without hesitation. We can't just, when a hurricane is coming, get out of the way and hope for the best," he said.

Although New York City escaped mostly unscathed, the storm did claim 18 lives and inflict billions of dollars of damage along the US east coast.

Still, even that toll is unlikely to persuade critics that the hype matched reality.

"Cable news was utterly swept away by the notion that Irene would turn out to be Armageddon," Howard Kurtz of the Daily Beast website said. "National news organizations morphed into local eyewitness-news operations... with dire warnings about what would turn out to be a category one hurricane, the lowest possible ranking."

On the Forbes website, Patrick Michaels said weather journalists and politicians were to blame together.

"With this level of noise, the political process has to respond with full mobilization," he wrote.

And persuading the public of danger next time around may be difficult -- with deadly results, he warned.

"How many people will the hyping of Irene have killed?" Michaels asked. "That's how Hurricane Hype followed by Hurricane Insanity leads to hurricane death."

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New York shrugs at 'Storm of the Century'
Rockaway Beach, New York (AFP) Aug 28, 2011 - Rain swept up motorists, beachfront parks were smashed and thousands spent a soggy night displaced, but for many New Yorkers, the purported "Storm of the Century" was a yawn.

On Rockaway Beach, one of the first areas of the city to be evacuated, stone outdoor chessboards and parts of a skateboarding rink were scattered near the sand as tropical storm Irene gave way to gray but calm skies.

"Thank God the damage is just this and not to houses," Tony Camacho said as he returned to his neighborhood in the early afternoon Sunday.

Neighbor Brad Palisi voiced relief that only outdoor property appeared to be damaged and, like many New Yorkers, questioned the unprecedented evacuation of some 370,000 people. He said authorities now had to follow up.

"The Rockaways often don't get as much attention as other parts of the city. So the question now is, how much attention we will get when it comes to repairs," he said.

But Kevin Johnson, who defied the evacuation orders, said he wished he had left.

"When I saw the water coming past the boardwalk at 6:00 am and my lights started to flicker, I realize I really should have left," said Johnson, even though in the end his power stayed on.

Some meteorologists predicted that New York would see its first major hurricane hit since 1938. Leaders from President Barack Obama to Mayor Michael Bloomberg took frequently to the airwaves, urging people to follow authorities' advice.

But in a city famed for its stubbornness, many New Yorkers second-guessed the response, suggesting that authorities were most interested in ensuring that they would not be blamed later.

"They shouldn't have evacuated everyone. Now some people might have thousands of dollars in damages and they weren't around to stop it," said Joe Perota, who was out walking his dog in Coney Island.

"They need to think about the weather and not just look at satellites," he said.

Perota was outside strolling just an hour after Coney Island, a beachside amusement strip, was suddenly filled with water -- the result of a storm surge that authorities had warned about.

An ocean of dirty sea water -- along with tree branches, discarded paper bags and other litter -- gushed through from the beach, the site of amusement rides and the Nathan's hot dog stand famed for its July 4 eating competitions.

Roads that appeared safe and dry were quickly submerged, with the few motorists braving the storm forced to make split-second decisions on which way to move, trying to guess which streets were on higher ground and for how long.

Several drivers who had been traveling peacefully were forced to get out and trudge into waist-deep water to push along their cars, looking feverishly for the best exit from a neighborhood suddenly under water.

An AFP team made a quick turn off Coney Island's Mermaid Avenue to find that the water was on the chase. The driver put the foot on the gas and found higher land with moments to spare, the smelly sea water already seeping into the passengers' windows.

But Jose Pabon, who is originally from Puerto Rico, was not too bothered as he came downstairs from his Coney Island home and saw a still-flooded side street.

"Back in Puerto Rico, the whole city could be closed down for days," he said.

The mood was more somber in other parts of the US east coast, where at least 18 people were killed. More than two million people lost power across the United States and Vermont was still being pounded late Sunday.

In the so-called City That Never Sleeps, though, the sun was back up by evening and bars and restaurants were bustling with life. One blog of The Village Voice, the popular weekly, offered tongue-in-cheek advice on the next ordeal for New Yorkers -- how to get rid of hanger-on "Hurricane Boyfriends."

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Irene damage could be 'tens of billions'
New York (AFP) Aug 28, 2011
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