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NYC returning to normal after Irene; death toll 1

NEW YORK -- Residents surveyed the damage Monday as the city returned to a normal bustle after a weekend of massive wind and rain from Tropical Storm Irene, which killed one person in the city.

Jose Sierra was pulled Sunday afternoon from the water at Sunset Marina, on City Island, an area that had been ordered evacuated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg ahead of the weekend storm. Sierra, 68, was going to check on his boat and tumbled into the rough waters, authorities said. He accidentally drowned, the medical examiner said Monday.

No other deaths were reported in the city, but at least five other people around the state died in the storm, which was downgraded from a hurricane as it hit Sunday, with 65 mph winds that downed trees and knocked out power and heavy rains that brought flooding.

Dozens of other people stranded in floodwaters, mostly on Staten Island, were rescued by firefighters. A happy, relieved Bloomberg thanked them and other first responders for their hard work, singling out the firefighters who donned head-to-toe waterproof gear and boated through streets.

"One of the reasons I sleep well at night is because there are people like members of these companies," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg also lauded city employees who worked through the storm and bus drivers and transit engineers who helped get the subways up and running after a historic shutdown of the mass transit system, the nation's largest. To the surprise of commuters Monday, most trains were up and running shortly before 6 a.m.

There were still problems on commuter rails due to flooding on Long Island and upstate, but transportation officials said they were working to get the systems up and running. And the city's three major airports resumed flight operations after closing over the weekend.

But there was still much cleanup to be done. Bloomberg said it was too soon for estimates on damage. There were about 2,000 downed trees reported, and 3,800 customers still were without power Monday, mostly in Queens and Staten Island, where flooding was worst.

State officials urged New Yorkers to photograph their damage to prepare to make insurance claims, and Bloomberg said he thought the city would apply for federal aid to help deal with the damage.

The state blood center reported an urgent need for donors because it lost about 2,000 donations during the storm.

Overall, the bulk of the damage was outside the city. The Long Island Power Authority said 400,000 customers were still without power and it could take all week to restore it. It was the worst power outage there in 26 years.

There were stretches of road with no working street lights. Most motorists proceeded with caution, but there were still some close calls as everybody played dodge 'em at the more complex intersections.

Linda Worrell, who lives on the water in Greenport, went into town to use the Internet connection at Starbucks because she still doesn't have power at her home. Worrell said she has water, a gas stove and a charcoal grill to get by until it comes back on.

"We're fine. We can survive," she said. "We just need to man up and take a cold shower."

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