Ferocious Hurricane Irene shuts down NY City

Updated: 2011-08-28 19:11


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New York City's Office of Emergency Management said there was a tornado warning for the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and urged people to seek shelter.

Television reports said local airports had already recorded winds of over 60 miles per hour (96 kph) and they had not yet reached their expected full strength.

About 370,000 city residents were ordered to leave their homes in low-lying areas, many of them in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

Ferocious Hurricane Irene shuts down NY City 

A man slides in the puddles from the rain of Hurricane Irene in New York's Times Square, August 28, 2011. Hurricane Irene closed in on New York on Saturday, shutting down the city, and millions of Americans on the East Coast hunkered down as the giant storm halted transport and caused massive power blackouts.  [Photo/Agencies]

Some were unwilling to go. Nicholas Vigliotti, 24, an auditor who lives in a high-rise building along the Brooklyn waterfront, said he saw no point. "Even if there was a flood, I live on the fifth floor," he said.

Storm Surge Fears

Flood waters forced officials in Hoboken, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, to evacuate a storm shelter, the mayor of Hoboken, Dawn Zimmer, said on Twitter.

The Miami-based US National Hurricane Center forecast a storm surge of up to 8 feet (2.5 meters) for Long Island and metropolitan New York. That could top the flood walls protecting the south end of Manhattan if it comes at high tide around 8 a.m. (noon GMT).

With winds of 8O miles per hour (130 km per hour), Irene was a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale. By 5 a.m. (0900 GMT), the storm center was 15 miles (25 km) south southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and 115 miles (190 km) south southwest of New York City.

Ferocious Hurricane Irene shuts down NY City 

Revellers dance in the rain of Hurricane Irene in New York's Times Square August 28, 2011. Hurricane Irene closed in on New York on Saturday, shutting down the city, and millions of Americans on the East Coast hunkered down as the giant storm halted transport and caused massive power blackouts. [Photo/Agencies] 

On its forecast track "the center of Irene will move near or over the coast of New Jersey and over Western Long Island this morning ... and move inland over southern New England by this afternoon," the hurricane center said.

Boston's public transit authority, the MBTA, said on its website it will shut down all services as of 8 a.m./noon GMT. After that time, "all modes of transit will be shut down for the remainder of the day and night," it said.

Summer vacationers fled beach towns and resort islands. More than a million people left the New Jersey shore and glitzy Atlantic City casinos were dark and empty.

This year has been one of the most extreme for weather in US history, with $35 billion in losses so far from floods, tornadoes and heat waves.

President Barack Obama, who cut his vacation short on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard to return to the White House, was keeping a close eye on preparations for the hurricane.

After moving across North Carolina with less punch than expected but still threatening, the hurricane re-emerged over inshore waters on its route northward, hugging the coast.

Nine Deaths Reported

At least nine deaths were reported in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Several million people were under evacuation orders on the US East Coast.

In total more than two million utility customers were without power as of early Sunday morning due to Irene, including more than 20,000 in New York City.

Utility company Consolidated Edison warned that downtown Manhattan, including Wall Street, could face more blackouts as low-lying areas flooded.

When Irene hit the North Carolina coast on Saturday, winds howled through power lines, sheets of rain fell and streets were flooded or littered with tree branches.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Irene's path evacuated their homes, many taking refuge in official shelters.

"Things can be replaced, but life can't be," said Robert Hudson, a 64-year-old military retiree, who sought refuge at a shelter in Milford High School in Delaware.

North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said there may be "a major hit" to tobacco crops, poultry and livestock in her state.

Torrential rain hit Washington but expected high winds had not hit the city by the early hours of Sunday.

Irene was the first hurricane to hit the US mainland since Ike pounded Texas in 2008. Emergency workers were mindful of Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans, killed up to 1,800 people and caused $80 billion in damage in 2005.


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