Irene begins to batter New York as the city is reduced to a ghost town and hours of torrential rain fuel fears of severe flooding
* Power outage for more than 36,000 customers in New York early Sunday morning
* Mayor warns New Yorkers will be waking up to possible hurricane and TORNADO damage
* The time for evacution is over, Mayor Bloomberg says
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:22 AM on 28th August 2011
Hurricane Irene began to batter New York City in the early hours of Sunday morning as heavy rain caused fears of severe flooding after the city had been reduced to a ghost town.
As the city nervously awaited Irene's powerful winds, power outages were reported across the city and authorities shut down the Port of New York and the Port for Long Island Sound.
The Palisades Interstate Parkway entrance to the George Washington Bridge was closed due to the terrible weather conditions, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
By 2am Sunday, more than 36,000 customers in the city were without power,most of them on Staten Island, Queens and outer suburbs, Con-Ed said.
In his final address on Saturday night at 10.30pm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a tornado warning was in effect for New York and that the time for evacuation was over. People now had to leave the streets, he said. Mr Bloomberg warned that could be a storm surge in the area at 8am which could lead to power outages across the city.
The edge of the hurricane has finally got upon us,' New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the more than eight million people who live in New York as he warned that tropical storm-force winds would hit the city.
Times Square, often called the crossroads of the world, was sparsely populated, mostly with visitors, as Irene rolled into the city with full force.
'We just came to see how few people are in Times Square and then we're going back,' said Cheryl Gibson, who was vacationing in the city and had planned to go to the other side of the Hudson River on Sunday.
Splish splash: A taxi speeds by on 42nd Street at Times Square in New York as rains fall before Hurricane Irene hits
'We can't get to New Jersey and I'm not sure it's any better there,' she said.
Mayor Bloomberg warned New Yorkers Irene was a life-threatening storm and urged them to stay indoors to avoid flying debris, flooding or the risk of being electrocuted by downed power lines.
'It is dangerous out there,' he said, but added: 'New York is the greatest city in the world and we will weather this storm.'
Some 370,000 city residents were ordered to leave their homes in low-lying areas, many of them in parts of the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
But many were unwilling to evacuate. Nicholas Vigliotti, 24, an auditor who lives in a high-rise building along the Brooklyn waterfront, said he saw no point.
'Even if there was a flood, I live on the fifth floor,' he said.
Flood waters forced officials in Hoboken, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, to evacuate a storm shelter, the mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, said on Twitter.
'Hoboken faces the worst case scenario. Flooding has begun. Moving Wallace Shelter residents to state shelter in east Rutherford," the mayor's tweet said.
Hours earlier, the normally bustling streets had emptied out and the rumble of the subways came to a stop.
New York buttoned up Saturday against Hurricane Irene, which threatened to paralyze Wall Street and give the big city its worst thrashing from a storm since at least the 1980s.
City officials cautioned that if Irene stayed on track, it could bring gusts of 85 mph overnight that could shatter skyscraper windows. They said there was an outside chance that a storm surge in Lower Manhattan could send seawater streaming into the maze of underground vaults that hold the city's cables and pipes, knocking out power to thousands and crippling the nation's financial capital.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the first mandatory evacuation ever in New York. More than 370,000 people were told to be out by 5 pm from low-lying areas on the fringes of the city, mostly in Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Many New Yorkers seemed to take it in stride, staying off the streets and hunkering down. Some planned hurricane get-togethers and hot tub parties.
'We already have the wine and beer, and now we're getting the vodka,' said Martin Murphy, a video artist who was shopping at a liquor store near Central Park with his girlfriend.