In the Bay Area and across the nation, federal workers, tourists and giant panda cam addicts heaved sighs of relief Thursday as the U.S. government reopened for business following a 16-day partial shutdown.
At most federal agencies, phones were answered, websites went live again and park entrances were unlocked for the first time since Sept. 30, after a literally 11th-hour vote ended the shutdown and averted a debt-default crisis.
The National Zoo's panda cam was reactivated, though high demand driven by more than two weeks of panda deprivation overwhelmed it.
Perhaps the Bay Area's most visible sign that the shutdown was over came early Thursday morning as tourist-laden boats to Alcatraz Island began departing from San Francisco's Pier 33. "We're very happy," said Lorelei Octavo, a spokeswoman for Hornblower Cruises. "We are getting a lot of walk-ups."
Typically 3,000 to 5,000 people a day visit Alcatraz. So the loss of at least 50,000 paying customers over the past two weeks was a major hit to local tourism businesses, Octavo said.
Orans Alsaeed, 30, of Saudi Arabia, arrived Sunday on his first trip to San Francisco with Alcatraz at the top of his list of things to see. He tried to visit Tuesday but found the ticket booth closed.
Between the government shutdown and threat of a BART strike, Alsaeed said, his trip has been more stressful and unpredictable than expected.
On Thursday, though, he finally made it to The Rock.
All other parts of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area also reopened Thursday morning. "We're really happy to be back in the business of welcoming people back to their national parks," said parks spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet. "We're much better at that than keeping them out."
She said parks were hit with graffiti and other vandalism because of reduced ranger patrols during the shutdown. Several people were cited for breaking gates on the road at China Beach in San Francisco.
Across the nation, the U.S. Forest Service started lifting a logging ban on national forests. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services restarted the computerized system used to verify the legal status of workers. And in Alaska, federal officials rushed to get the red king crab fishing season under way.
Federal workers who were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown will get back pay in their next paychecks, which for many will come Oct. 29.
More than 13,000 workers at the Bay Area's national laboratories -- Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, Lawrence Berkeley and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory -- had faced the threat of furloughs without any chance of back pay because they're contract workers and not federal employees.
Livermore Lab did a phased shutdown Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving about 6,000 workers out on holiday pay as management swapped New Year's Eve for Thursday's regular workday. Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said Thursday that workers "will be back to work tomorrow and resuming normal operations."
Engineer Bill Smith, secretary of a union representing hundreds of lab employees, said workers were relieved: "I'm pleased the lab management is doing a good job of making it so we're damaged the least," he said. "They made the best out of a bad situation."
For some federal workers, however, the damage was already done.
Elena Mendoza, 51, of Manteca, placed a Craigslist ad Oct. 4 for her yard sale: "Help a federal employee make ends meet! I have lots of goodies!"
But the $59 she made didn't come close to what she would have been making as a part-time U.S. Census Bureau worker, leaving her well short of what she needed for her family's food and gas.
"It hurts us lower on the totem pole than it does them," she said of politicians in the nation's capital.
Yosemite National Park reopened late Wednesday night, as nearby businesses rejoiced.
"It's just been awful," said Corinna Loh, co-owner of the Iron Door Saloon -- California's oldest bar, founded in 1852 -- in Groveland.
The bar usually thrives in the summer and fall, but the Rim Fire in and around Yosemite had forced Loh and her husband to lay off 35 of their 45 employees. Then the shutdown cost them at least another $25,000 in lost business, she said, and other businesses were hit worse.
"One of our local sandwich shops is closing down permanently," Loh said. "This just killed her."
Beckie Streed and her fiancé, Marc DeMasters, had to go to "Plan B" after the shutdown forced them to decide on Monday to move their wedding, planned for Sunday, out of Yosemite to a site near Oakhurst.
"We are much more relaxed now because we are not relying on an outside source to make a decision on what we are going to do," said Patricia Streed, of Orange County, the bride's mother.
She may be relaxed about the wedding, but not about politics.
"I'm just about ready to change parties and go independent I'm so irritated," said Streed, now a registered Republican. "We vote for them to have the skills to talk and negotiate."
California Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said federally funded social services such as food stamps and school lunches survived without interruption, but could have run dry in November.
But, he noted, Wednesday night's deal only funds the government through mid-January.
"Hopefully," he said, "we won't see the same movie again in 90 days."
The Associated Press and staff writers David DeBolt and Jeremy Thomas contributed to this report.