Driving back to New York yesterday from upstate New York it was clear that most of the traffic was departing the city, not heading towards it.

I made it down to the city in record time, empty bridge approaches, no heavy trucks, a compete absence of highway patrol as I motored along around 75 miles per hour.

I had left Saratoga Springs about 180 miles from New York on a balmy late summer morning but as I approached the city the clouds darkened and the first squalls began to manifest, driving microbursts of rain that came and went with astonishing speed.

The overhead highway signs were all illuminated 'Evacuate if you live in a coastal district of New York City' is essentially what they said.

At the bridge crossings there were warnings that if the wind got up over 60 miles an hour the bridges would be closed.

The last time that happened was after September 11th and the same eerie sense of looming disaster prevailed.

I counted about four other cars on the Throgs Neck bridge, usually crammed with vehicles.

A silly line from a Jonathan King song replayed in my head 'Everyone's gone to the moon"

Arriving home, we ate out at our favorite restaurant, amazingly half -empty on a Saturday night. The hurricane rum punch bowl special was the advertised special drink.

Back home a friend called to say their dog was acting very strangely.

Animals have a sixth sense about weather and natural disaster events. Before the tsunami in Thailand animals fled to the higher ground.

My friend's dog was hiding under the bed and would not come out.

He didn't need the all news, all the time 1010 Wins radio station to tell him something bad was happening.

Speaking of which, the sense of impending disaster on the TV reports finally got to me and I switched them off.

I can understand the concern but the hype for a category one storm as against, say a category five, was ridiculous.

No Virginia or Mr. Weather Channel man, standing just ankle deep in water, the world is not coming to an end.

But my major concern is a wonderful big tree in my garden, beloved by all, that provides, summer shelter and winter wonderland when covered in frost and snow.

It is tall, very tall and it could fall directly on the house in a hurricane I reckoned.

It has stood for over a 100 years a neighbor has told us and may it last another century.

A smaller version of it nearby came down in a storm a few years back so my concerns are not unfounded.

As a precaution we are moving to the part of the house as far away as possible from it.

The other is power. As I write this the lights flicker again.Worrying about this is weird.

Usually it is in the midst of a winter snow storm that it becomes a concern. But in August?

My head as usual is a jumble of weird facts. Did you know there was another Hurricane Irene, back in 1999 that slammed into Florida? Did you know as a friend told me, that a major hurricane is threatening the Philippines right now and not a word of coverage?

I have heard on Facebook from many friends complaining about the incessant coverage of New York on reports while other areas affected are ignored.

I guess it's too good a story to pass up, the disaster movie everyone wants to make. Wall Street under Water! New York evacuates!

It looks like Irene may have lost enough of her punch to be less fearful than thought as I write this in the early morning.

I hope so. I loved that sign 'Goodnight Irene' some plucky American posted on the plyboard covering up his windows.

Good night indeed, and don't stay too long Irene. Like an unwelcome guest or a one night stand here's your hat, now where's your hurry?

Listen to Niall O'Dowd speak on RTE's "Morning Ireland" radio show about Michele Bachman's views of Ireland