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Hurricane Irene silences the noisiest bar in New York

August 27, 2011 | 11:22 pm

The crowd started filtering out of Professor Thom's on New York's lower Second Avenue a little before midnight, a good three hours before the swell of bar patrons usually shows any sign of weakening.

A Red Sox watering hole that caters to the city's many Boston expatriates, Thom's is, by many an unscientific survey, the most boisterous bar in one of the most boisterous stretches of a city that prides itself on, well, its  boisterousness. On many nights -- usually when a big game is on, but also during a trivia evening, a special promotion, or just on a Tuesday -- the space is packed and loud. The hooting from inside can suggest revelers having the most fantastic time of their adult lives, while earning bemused looks, or worse, from pretty much anyone who passes by.

On Saturday night, things weren't altogether different at the New York spot, even with torrential rains and a city in Irene-related lockdown. As usual, bartenders poured shots for over-eager NYU students. Angry debates about college football from twentysomething men in khaki shorts and ballcaps continued to rage. And a young female patron still confused Queen and David Bowie singing "Under Pressure" with Vanilla Ice, before shrilly demanding that a T-shirted male perform an interpretative dance for her in time with the song. (He obliged.)

PHOTOS: In the path of Irene

But something wasn't quite right. The nearly two dozen flatscreens still showed the requisite sports highlights, but almost no one was watching. A game ended and a science-fiction B-movie came on, and no one remembered to change the channel.

An edition of the drinking game of quarters, a staple of this clientele, seemed almost sad, just a couple listlessly bouncing coins into a glass in the corner. At one table, a patron even worked quietly on his laptop.

Granted, the fact that Thom's was open at all Saturday was notable in its own right. As was the case everywhere else in the city, nearly every nightspot on Second Avenue was closed. A few restaurants and grocery stores kept their lights on, but even those were fading. "Open? Why wouldn't we be open?" asked the woman tending bar at Thom's with unimpeachable sincerity.

By 1 a.m., though, only about 10 people remained, and they were fading. A few of them even began to demonstrate an awareness that some kind of abnormal weather was brewing outside.

"Let's go play beer pong and have a good time," said a young male, turning to his female companion.

"No, we're not playing beer pong anywhere," she said defiantly. "There is a hur-ri-cane," she added, drawing out the syllables for emphasis.

The young man looked down at his shoes and nodded grudgingly, then shuffled away.


Hurricane Irene pushes on toward Northeast

Tourists trapped in New York City

N.C. expected flooding from Irene -- and got it

--Steven Zeitchik in New York

Photo: Tourists cross a street near Times Square as Irene arrives in New York. Credit: Brendan McDermid, Reuters