Irate Irene loses bite on Big Apple

The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Irene to the status of a tropical storm as it headed for New York. After battering the US mid-Atlantic coast with hurricane power, Irene's winds dropped to100 km per hour, says the center’s website.

­Despite numerous warnings from the authorities, millions of New Yorkers decided to stay in their homes, ignoring the evacuation order, as the hurricane slammed the city. Irene unleashed heavy rain and wind on the city early on Sunday, causing the Hudson to break its banks and flood the streets of Manhattan. Emergency workers are now dealing with the consequences of major flooding in low-lying areas.

RT’s Marina Portnaya says the storm has passed the city and is now heading towards Rhode Island, New England. Things now seem relatively calm and the sun is beginning to come out in New York.

However, all public transport remains shut in the area throughout Sunday and a tornado warning still remains to parts of the seaboard.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg however says residents who had been ordered out of their homes in low-lying areas will be allowed to return Sunday afternoon. He confirms New York City offices, stock exchange and other markets will open as planned on Monday. Transport is going to resume slowly with bus service likely to be the first to be restored.

Watch video of Irene sweeping through New York area:



Latest reports say the hurricane has lead to the deaths of at least 19 people in eight states, including Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia.

More than 4 million homes and businesses were without power Sunday morning all along the Eastern coast, as reported by Associated Press. New York City's airports were closed, with more than 9,000 flights cancelled. Broadway shows, baseball games and other events were all cancelled or postponed. The city’s entire transit system was shut down because of weather for the first time in history.