The Statue of Liberty, shut last year after Superstorm Sandy, has reopened to the public on Independence Day.
Crowds are flocking once again to see the New York monument, which was swamped by tidal surges during post-tropical cyclone Sandy in October.
Events are also being held in Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Philadelphia and New Orleans to mark the US holiday.
Security precautions will be tight at major parades and fireworks displays.
The 151-ft Statue of Liberty reopened on Thursday morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by New York’s mayor.
Most of Liberty Island, the attraction’s home off lower Manhattan, was deluged by last autumn’s powerful storm.
Although the 127-year-old Lady Liberty herself was unscathed, there was widespread damage to her 12-acre site.
Railings, docks and paving stones were smashed, while electrical systems, sewerage and boilers were wrecked.
Hundreds of National Park Service workers have been cleaning up the mud and debris, with some repairs still under way.
The neighboring Ellis Island, once the nation’s busiest gateway and home to a famous immigration museum, suffered far worse in the storm and remains closed.
The damage to both islands has been estimated at $59 million.
The Statue of Liberty, shut last year after Superstorm Sandy, has reopened to the public on Independence Day
“This to us, Liberty Island, is really about a rebirth,” Heather Leykam, who came to see the statue with her husband and three children from their home in Brooklyn, told the Associated Press news agency.
“It is a sense of renewal for the city and the country.”
New York City will later stage its annual fireworks display over the Hudson River with live performances by Taylor Swift and others.
At nearby Coney Island in Brooklyn, hungry competitors gathered for the annual Nathan’s Famous hotdog-eating contest.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut devoured 69 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes to beat his own world record, successfully defending his title for the seventh time.
The women’s event was won by Sonya Thomas, who scoffed nearly 37 hotdogs and buns in the same time.
Across the country, star-spangled bunting will be rolled out for celebrations, picnics and barbecues.
Boston is to stage its first major public gathering since the deadly bombings at the city’s marathon on April 15. Law enforcement officials have said those blasts were originally intended for 4th of July.
A US national security official told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that intelligence agencies were unaware of any plot timed to coincide with the holiday.
Police will use hand-held chemical detectors, radiation scanners and camera surveillance to screen crowds at some of Thursday’s events.
In Washington, a 17-minute fireworks display will take place on the National Mall with live music by Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond.
Independence Day commemorates the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776 from Great Britain during the war of the American Revolution.
The Statue of Liberty officially reopened last weekend to huge fanfare after a $30 million refurbishment, but it has now been closed indefinitely after Superstorm Sandy flooded its island in New York Harbor, as inspectors conduct a full assessment of any possible structural damage.
The public have been restricted to the grounds on Liberty Island over the past year, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and a U.S. Military Academy cadets group were the first to visit last Sunday.
However, that was before the storm – and although the New York City statue was expected to reopen on Wednesday, that was delayed after Hurricane Sandy hit and killed at least 98 people in the US and Canada.
The renovation included replacing the stairs to the crown, as well as creating wheelchair access to one of the observation decks at the top of the pedestal. But the statue was closed again on Monday.
Federal inspectors will be carrying out checks this Saturday to Liberty Island, and its neighbor Ellis Island, although a quick examination showed no damage to the statue or the Ellis Island museum.
But a National Parks Service spokesman told the New York Daily News there was “water damage to the Statue of Liberty site” and said checks must be done before a reopen date can be established.
Elsewhere in New York City, museums, the Empire State Building, Broadway theatres and many stores reopened on Wednesday to the relief of tourists stuck in hotel rooms since last weekend.
This year marked the 126th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s dedication and the renovation improved fire alarms, sprinkler systems and exit routes to bring it in line with city safety codes.
There are also more stairs than ever before, with a daunting 393 steps to the crown, where there were previously 354 slightly steeper steps. The famous statue is 151 ft from base to torch.
It sits atop the 89 ft tall stone pedestal, which sits on a 65 ft tall foundation in the shape of a star. Meanwhile the bathrooms have been upgraded for the first time since the 1980s.
Statue of Liberty has been closed indefinitely after Superstorm Sandy flooded its island in New York Harbor
In addition, a new air-conditioning system will cool the interior of the copper-clad monument, which previously could get up to 20F hotter than outdoors at the height of summer.
About 3.5 million people visit Liberty Island each year, although most don’t go inside the statue. With the improvements, 26,000 more will be able to ascend to the crown each year.
The statue, a gift from France to the US, was dedicated in 1886 and declared a national monument in 1924. In 2009, the crown was reopened to the public for the first time since the 9/11 attacks.
Superstorm Sandy was blamed for at least 98 deaths across the US and Canada, leaving New Jersey’s barrier islands a wasteland of eroded shoreline, ruined beachfront homes and flooded streets.
As New York City came back to life yesterday, starting with the partial reopening of subway routes three days after the storm, it was revealed the total U.S. damage could hit $50 billion.
SWEET LADY LIBERTY: A BRIEF HISTORY OF STATUE OF LIBERTY, THE SYMBOL OF AMERICA
Designed by Frederic Bartholdi, the statue is a neo-classical sculpture based on the Roman Goddess of Freedom, Libertas.
The statue was a present to the United States from France to celebrate independence and was erected in 1886 in Upper New York Bay on Liberty Island.
Frederic Bartholdi’s inspiration for the statue was a comment made by politician Édouard René de Laboulaye in mid-1865.
He stated: “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort – a common work of both our nations.”
Statue of Liberty makes for a truly exhilarating sight for anyone entering New York. The main body of the statue stands at 151ft high, but with the pedestal included, reaches 305ft.
Statue of Liberty has been featured in several Hollywood films such as Independence Day, Cloverfield, The Day After Tomorrow and Planet Of The Apes, where it appears buried in a beach.
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