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Hurricane — what hurricane? Irene blew! • Brooklyn Paper

Hurricane — what hurricane? Irene blew!

This storefront on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook captured the mood of many.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Boy, Hurricane Irene really blew!

Brooklynites went toe-to-toe with the storm of a generation on Sunday, but emerged with nothing to show for their efforts after the massive tempest fizzled into a late-summer downpour — leaving evacuated and trasit-stranded residents feeling peeved that Mother Nature didn’t ruin their weekend enough.

“It was much ado about nothing,” said Moe Maloney, of Park Slope. “I thought it would be worse.”

The storm caused some flooding in Red Hook and Greenpoint, but the resulting devastation paled in comparison to last September’s tornado — or even, for that matter, to the December blizzard that paralyzed the borough and snowed-in Mayor Bloomberg’s reputation for handling natural disasters.

No one was killed by the gale, which experts predicted would be the region’s first hurricane since Gloria slammed into Long Island in 1985, but was downgraded to a less terrifying-sounding tropical storm before hitting Coney Island at 9:30 am.

By 3 pm, residents of low-lying areas who had been ordered to leave their homes were allowed to return. And transit service — which was shut down at noon on Saturday — was largely restored by Monday afternoon.

The 80-year-old American elm tree that Brooklyn Heights residents fought to save four years ago fell at 5 am on Sunday, slamming into a home across the street — and becoming an unhappy attraction throughout the afternoon.
Community Newspaper Group / Kate Briquelet

It was the first time ever, except during strikes, that the city did not have full transit service for such a long period of time.

The return of service came 48 hours after a somber-faced Mayor Bloomberg — who appeared determined to get out in front of Irene — took the unprecedented step of ordering a mandatory evacuation of 150,000 Brooklynites in danger zones of Williamsburg, DUMBO and the Columbia Street Waterfont District.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think the storm had the potential to be very serious,” Bloomberg warned. “The best outcome would be if the storm veers off to the east and doesn’t hit us, or doesn’t hit us hard, but we can’t depend on Mother Nature being so kind.”

Residents were given until 5 pm on Saturday to clear out.

Many bunked with family or friends. Thousands bedded down at city-provided shelters.

But the bulk of residents in the danger zone hunkered down at home and made light of a hurricane that never came.

The floods were so bad on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook that this cyclist had to slow down!
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“Yo Irene,” read a sign on a Red Hook storefront, capturing the mood of the neighborhood. “Bring it, bee-yotch!”

Carroll Gardens resident Lillian Auld said she spent the night brushing up on her baking skills.

“I made a hurricane cake,” Auld said. “Then I went to a hurricane party.”

Meanwhile, at Eammon’s on Montague Street, people drank Hurricanes, a popular cocktail in New Orleans, which is constantly under attack by cyclones.

Jeff Dehler, a car designer from Boerum Hill, said the experience taught him to take extreme weather warnings with a grain of salt.

“The storm was ridiculous,” Dehler said. “The next time I’m going to stay right where I am.”

The only hurricane is in their glasses, as (from left) Justin Ellis, Francesca Depp and Lance Willis consume the popular New Orleans cocktail at Eamonn’s on Montague Street as Irene hit last Saturday night.
Photo by Tom Callan

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