By the numbers: How much damage could Irene do to New York City?

According the model, a hurricane with wind speeds of about 100 miles per hour — making it a “weak” Category 2 storm — might cause on the order of $35 billion in damage if it were to pass directly over Manhattan. Such a storm would probably flood New York’s subway system as well as acres upon acres of prime real estate in neighborhoods like the East Village, the Financial District, TriBeCa, Coney Island, Red Hook, Dumbo, as well as parts of Staten Island and most of the Rockaways.

Although far from the most likely scenario, this may represent a reasonable-worst-case estimate of what could happen if Hurricane Irene took exactly the wrong turn at exactly the wrong time. National Weather Service models, as of this writing, estimate that there is a 5 to 10 percent chance that Manhattan could experience hurricane-strength winds. Local readers should stop what they are doing and check to see whether they are in one of New York City’s hurricane evacuation zones.

A $35 billion loss is equivalent to roughly half of New York City’s annual budget, so the city would require significant assistance from state and federal authorities. It is also equivalent to about 1 percent of the United States’ quarterly gross domestic product, so such a storm could tangibly increase the chance of a recession.

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