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Rare quiet, vacancy at Times Square as Tropical Storm Irene closes in

(Xinhua)

09:31, August 29, 2011

NEW YORK, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- A soaked Times Square was a rare scene of barrenness on Sunday morning, moments before the eye of the newly downgraded Tropical Storm Irene is due to set in.

At about 9:00 a.m., the crossroads of the world, where scenes of hustling had been common, was largely abandoned amid torrential rain and intermittent gusts.

Electronic screens were still flashing on skyscrapers, but the windows of shops flanking the square remained shuttered. Traffic was thin but for a couple of police cars parked on the roadside and the occasional passing of yellow cabs.

There were few pedestrians, and some onlookers huddled under the roof of the adjacent Marriott hotel, checking the rain and bantering. Donned in full rain gear, photographers and an anchorwoman could be seen working on the empty streets.

"I'm not scared at all," said Greg, a local resident living on the nearby 38th street, to Xinhua, when asked how did he feel about the upcoming storm. Holding a camera in hand, Greg said he did not want to waste such an opportunity to shoot some good pictures. "When it (the storm) hits, I'll just run back home," he said.

For Betrick, a Dutch tourist at the Big Apple, the short moment before the storm arrives was a rare chance to wander off and see a different Times Square. To him and his friend, the rain and an over-flowing sidewalk was no big deal at all. "At this time of the season, we got rain everyday back in Holland."

Latest weather reports said that Irene weakened from a Hurricane to a Tropical Storm when it reached the edges of New York. But forecasters warned that wind could pick up around noon at some 50 mph.

In New York, a flood watch will be effective until late Sunday night. East River and Hudson River topped their banks on Sunday morning. City officials were worried about flooding in some low- lying parts of the city, including lower Manhattan and Staten Island.

All over the city, some 370,000 people have been evacuated and even more were taking shelter at makeshift storm centers. The public transit system was shut down. Bridges, tunnels and ports were also closed in the city of more than 8 million people. A resumption is not expected until Monday.


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