UPPER MANHATTAN — After watching Hurricane Irene from the safety of their living rooms and televisions, Inwood and Washington Heights residents hit the streets Sunday morning to survey damage to the neighborhood.
Families and dog owners trickled into the parks and streets soon after 11 a.m. hoping to get a sense of the havoc unleashed by the storm.
Many chain stores remained closed in the neighborhood, but mom and pop shops like Pizza Palace on Dyckman Street and Indian Road Café on Indian Road were open for business as usual.
“Oh yes we are open! Happy Hurricane Weekend!,” tweeted Indian Road Café’s owners.
But for many, the downed trees and minor flooding amounted to little more than what the area normally experiences during heavy storms, something many noted with gratitude.
“We get trees down all the time up here; this isn’t all that bad,” Inwood resident Martin Belgrano said, pointing to a large felled tree that took a tumble, roots and all, from the edge of Inwood Hill Park near 207th Street and Seaman Avenue.
Several trees were knocked down in parks, like in Isham Park where a large tree fell near Broadway and 213th Street and two large sections of a tree in the center of the park covered benches Sunday morning. In Washington Heights, a car sat with its rear window smashed after a tree branch crashed through its window.
And although flooding was not as bad as had been expected along Sherman Creek and areas along the Harlem and Hudson Rivers north of 155th Street, sewers backed up on several streets and rainwater flooded basements.
“Mother Nature has given us a new swimming pool as a result of flooding and poor drainage,” Washington Heights resident and Community Board 12 member Richard Lewis said of flooding at Wright Brothers Playground on 155th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.
Aside from sewer backups, substantial flooding is rare in Northern Manhattan as most parts are much higher than sea level.
Bennett Park at Pinehurst Avenue and West 185th Street is the highest natural elevation point in Manhattan, at 265.05 feet above sea level.
Although the rain calmed by mid-afternoon, wild winds were reported with some leaving area parks for shelter after close calls with nature.
“Ack! That tree branch just barely missed me,” tweeted Inwood resident @lolitapop9 just after 3 p.m. Sunday.
But for some, the lack of substantial damage almost seemed a let down after hours of dramatic weather reports and evacuation plans throughout the city.
“This is what they call the storm of the century,” asked Brian Folorano of Hudson Heights. “Come on Mother Nature, I know you can do one better.”