Hurricane Irene in Manhattan – Live Blog

Hurricane Irene is here. Well almost. Here’s some brief notes on what Manhattan is like this weekend:

Friday

As Manhattan prepares to handle brunt of Hurricane Irene’s impact, it’s really interesting to observe how some residents react – some believing in the worse and some who just don’t seem to care.

Last night on the Upper West Side, many grocery stores were packed with people trying to buy supplies before the storm hit the city. Most people I spoke to didn’t seem concerned about the storm. Instead, they were worried about whether the city would have enough supplies if there were power outages.

116th and Broadway

At 116th and Broadway, near Columbia University, the road heading north was packed with taxis and cars. Although there is a lot of traffic on Fridays, the traffic was more than usual. It appeared as if a lot of Manhattanites were heading upstate to avoid Hurricane Irene.

A little south on the Upper West Side, near 110th, it was strange to see some people in full panic mode walking up Broadway with jugs of water while others were relaxing on the outdoor patios of restaurants that stayed open.

I went to one Upper West Side grocery store for a few supplies, and the cashier line snaked all the way around the store perimeter, from the frozen section to the vegetable section. Other shoppers were not angry, but tempers did flare when one woman cut in and out of the line to find her son. I spoke to one of the store clerks, and he said that for all he knew, his store would remain open on Saturday and that he was expected to come to work.

Even though many Upper West Siders didn’t seem concerned, every store I walked into were sold out of flashlights.

Saturday Morning

The sky was cloudy in the morning but it wasn’t raining. For the first time since I moved into my Harlem apartment, I didn’t hear any loud music playing outside or people yelling in the street. Some folks were walking their dogs, but it was quieter than usual.

The subways were still relatively busy even as the overhead announcements declared that the subway would shutdown by noon. Many people on the 1 line were tourists who were heading downtown. Locals also didn’t seem too concerned. Most people were dressed in summer clothing – no jackets, umbrellas in head, or rain boots.

Times Square was less busy, but still active. There were plenty of tourists who looked lost. And some just looked determined to make the most out of their probably every expensive trip before heading back home. Several shops were closed, including all Starbucks (shockingly). Tourists flocked to the stores that were open. Silly people.

Times Square
Times Square, nearly empty
Times Square: tourists unprepared to face Hurricane Irene

I spoke to one T-Mobile store owner just south of 42nd street on Broadway. He had no intention of keeping his store open but he couldn’t help it because he was receiving business from tourists who wanted internet access on their phones. I noticed that he had a thick Brooklyn accent, and when I asked him how he planned on getting home, the T-Mobile store owner said that he would drive. Hopefully the roads are still open by then.

Saturday Afternoon

I originally planned to report from a downtown evacuation center, but that plan fell apart.

As I walked around midtown near 34th Street, more tourists clustered in front of Macy’s to take pictures. I’m not sure if they knew what was going on or if they paid too much money to waste time staying indoors in New York.

34th – Herald’s Square
34th – Herald Square
34th – Herald Square

The D train took a long time to arrive at 34th station. The MTA opened all emergency doors so people didn’t have to pay to get in. Again, while the subway was nearly empty, most people waiting were tourists.

As a MTA official directed passengers, I overheard her tell a couple that they probably shouldn’t head downtown to Canal Street since it is in Zone A. I don’t know how she said this without a hint of sarcasm.

Meta-moment: I took a picture of another journalist videotaping the D train coming into the station just as the subway system was preparing to shutdown.

34th subway – D line

I briefly stopped at 42nd – Bryant Park station just to see how it was. Or I am have gotten off at the wrong stop. Does it matter? I mean, I’ve only been here for less than a month!  With less than twenty minutes before the subway shutdown, tourists gathered around their map to see where they were going.

42nd – Bryant Park subway stop

This little girl wore a Falun Gong shirt. So interesting. Wish I could have stop to chat but everyone was in such a big rush. Yet no one seemed to panic. I think most people realize that this will be a huge storm (if not a hurricane) and their biggest fears are running out of supplies in the storm’s aftermath.

42nd – Bryant Park

From what I observed, I don’t think anyone is concerned about getting hurt from the actual storm.

Anyways, the D train bypassed all stations from 42nd until 125th, which is ironically very close to my Harlem apartment.

I decided to bunker down with my cousin who lives on Wall Street. I know, foolish girl decides to go to Zone A when the mayor told residents to try to evacuate from Zone A. Hey, I can’t help it, I’m a journalist. Also, my cousin is a doctor, so I think I’ll be okay.

I took a cab from Harlem to Wall Street. The cab driver was originally from Ivory Coast, and in 25 minutes we talked about Hurricane Irene, how he would get back to the Bronx where he lives, politics in Ivory Coast, American politics [side note: so many people who used to support President Obama are now very disappointed with him. Almost everyone I spoke to about this said they want to see him stand up to the Republicans.], racism, and my experiences living in Canada.

Almost every conversation I’ve had with a stranger since Thursday has ended with “be safe this weekend.”

Now I’m here in the Financial District, in an apartment on Wall Street, just waiting for the rain. The rain comes and goes, but nothing too noteworthy. The streets are quiet though that just seems to be how it is in the Financial District on a weekend. The NYPD are guarding the shoreline to stop any ridiculous high-risk adventurers from doing something stupid.

Wall Street, walking to the NYSE building
Rice bags protect storefront on Wall Street, near NYSE building

More to come….

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