FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver ran no fewer than, I'm sure, 3.48 million simulations predicting what would happen if Hurricane Irene directly hit Manhattan at full strength. If it did, know what the end result would be? ECONOMIC RECKONING.
Using historical data from 20 hurricanes to hit the Northeast in the past, and adjusting the economic damage into 2011 equivalents, Silver assembled a table of how much money Hurricane Irene will bleed from NYC if Manhattan is hit directly. If a tropical storm (classified as having wind speeds ranging between 40 and 70 mph) hits, it could cost anywhere between $133 million and $2.2 billion. If a category 1 hurricane hits (75-95 mph), the costs could range between $3.5 billion and $22.9 billion.
The costs just keep skyrocketing from there. If, for whatever reason, a hurricane with 130 mph winds were to smash into the city, damages might cost as much as $600 billion. But before you PANIC, Silver subtly mentions that there's currently a 5%-10% chance of hurricane-strength winds hitting Manhattan. Oh.
As you were. [FiveThirtyEight]