A Clearfield man said he was disappointed by the lack of strength Tropical Storm Irene had Saturday night in his boyhood hometown of Cos Cob, Conn.
"You can call me the guy in the eye," said Brian Chutka. "I was in the eye of the storm."
Chutka, 59, who owns the Clearfield-based trucking firm Chutka Trucking and was transporting welding rods from Harrisburg, Pa. to Salt Lake City this weekend, said people were even disappointed in Connecticut.
While rainfall was aplenty, he said, predictions of massively high winds never came to fruition.
"As far as hurricanes go, it kind of let us down," he said, noting that he didn't believe one boat was damaged in the Cos Cob town docks, near where he stayed.
Stripped of hurricane rank, Irene spent the last of its fury Sunday, leaving treacherous flooding and millions without power -- but an unfazed New York and relief that it was nothing like the nightmare predicted.
"I've made it out of there," said Chutka, who had driven through Connecticut and Pennsyvania on Sunday. "I've escaped. The storm is definitely over. The calm is here."
Slowly, the East Coast surveyed the damage, up to $7 billion by one private estimate. For many, the danger had not passed: Rivers and creeks were raging torrents tumbling with limbs and parts of buildings in northern New England and upstate New York.
"The evacuations were certainly warranted," the truck driver said.
Chutka said he drove past the Passaic River in New Jersey on Sunday.
"It was exceeding it's banks by football fields," he said. "A river that is normally 50 feet across was 300 feet across, going through neighborhoods."
Chutka said from that point for 80 miles to the Delaware Water Gap, the power was out and he could not buy fuel.
The storm knocked out power for 4.5 million people.
He noted widespread flooding with numerous large thoroughfares closed. He said he saw one of his friends kayaking down a road that had become a river running next to the harbor, as well as dozens of cars were filled with water.
President Barack Obama cautioned from the Rose Garden, "This is not over."
New York lifted its evacuation order for 370,000 people and said it hoped to have its subway, shut down for the first time by a natural disaster, rolling again today, though maybe not in time for the morning commute.
Philadelphia restarted its trains and buses.
"All in all," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "we are in pretty good shape."
At least 19 people died in the storm, most of them when trees crashed through roofs or onto cars.
The main New York power company, Consolidated Edison, didn't have to go through with a plan to cut electricity to lower Manhattan to protect its equipment. Engineers had worried that salty seawater would damage the wiring.
And two pillars of the neighborhood came through the storm just fine: The New York Stock Exchange said it would be open for business today. The Sept. 11 memorial at the World Trade Center site didn't lose a single tree.
The Northeast was spared the urban nightmare some had worried about -- crippled infrastructure, stranded people and windows blown out of skyscrapers. Early assessments showed "it wasn't as bad as we thought it would be," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said.
Twenty homes on Long Island Sound in Connecticut were destroyed by churning surf. The torrential rain chased hundreds of people in upstate New York from their homes and washed out 137 miles of the state's main highway.
"This is the worst I've ever seen in Vermont," said Mike O'Neil, the state emergency management director.
Rivers roared in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In the Hudson Valley town of New Paltz, N.Y., so many people were gathering to watch a rising river that authorities banned alcohol sales and ordered people inside. And in Rhode Island, which has a geography thick with bays, inlets and shoreline, authorities were worried about coastal flooding at evening high tide.
Power companies were picking through uprooted trees and reconnecting lines in the South and had restored electricity to hundreds of thousands of people by Sunday afternoon.
Under its first hurricane warning in a quarter-century, New York took extraordinary precautions. There were sandbags on Wall Street, tarps over subway grates and plywood on storefront windows.
The subway stopped rolling. Broadway and baseball were canceled.
With the worst of the storm over, hurricane experts assessed the preparations and concluded that, far from hyping the danger, authorities had done the right thing by being cautious.
Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center, called it a textbook case.
"They knew they had to get people out early," he said. "I think absolutely lives were saved."
Mayfield credited government officials -- but also the meteorologists.
Days before the storm ever touched American land, forecast models showed it passing more or less across New York City.
"I think the forecast itself was very good, and I think the preparations were also good," said Keith Seitter, director of the American Meteorological Society. He added:
"If this exact same storm had happened without the preparations that everyone had taken, there would have been pretty severe consequences."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.