Irene sweeps through New York

Updated: 2011-08-29 07:55

By Ben Berkowitz and Dan Trotta (China Daily)

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Irene sweeps through New York
Waves, whipped up by Irene, crash into Long Island, New York, on Sunday. Charles Krupa / Associated Press

Streets empty and transport shut down as storm kills 9 along coast

NEW YORK - Hurricane Irene battered New York with heavy winds and driving rain on Sunday, knocking out power supplies and flooding some of Lower Manhattan's deserted streets even as it lost some of its ferocity.

Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday morning but was still sending waves crashing onto shorelines and flooding coastal suburbs.

There was about 30 cm of water in the streets in Lower Manhattan and the tide seemed to be rising, although there was less damage than many had feared.

"It's not as bad as they said it would be. The streets are flooded but not as bad as I thought," said John Harris, 37, who defied an evacuation order and stayed home overnight in the Rockaways. "But I'm going to keep my eye on it."

Heavy rain and wind forced the closure of three bridges leading to the Rockaways peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean, and further east on Long Island sand berms built to hold off the flooding and protect coastal businesses appeared to have failed.

Irene was blamed for at least nine deaths in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida as it headed up the East Coast. About 3.3 million homes were without electricity and several million people were under evacuation orders.

New York City's normally bustling streets were eerily quiet after authorities ordered tens of thousands of residents to evacuate low-lying areas and shut down its subways, airports and buses.

Forecasters said Irene still posed a serious threat of a storm surge that could raise water levels by up to 2.5 meters in coastal areas from Virginia to Massachusetts. Isolated tornadoes in the New York area were possible.

The storm dumped heavy rain on the Washington region, but the capital appeared to have avoided major damage. Some bridges were closed but airports remained open and public transport operated on a normal schedule.

From the Carolinas to Maine, tens of millions of people were in the path of Irene, which howled ashore in North Carolina on Saturday, dumping torrential rain, felling trees and knocking out power.

"The edge of the hurricane has finally got upon us," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the more than 8 million people who live in New York as he warned that tropical storm-force winds would hit the city.

Times Square, often called the crossroads of the world, was almost empty as Irene rolled into the city.

Broadway shows were canceled, coffee was hard to come by with Starbucks stores closed and burgers and fries were in short supply as McDonald's outlets were shut.

Bloomberg warned New Yorkers Irene was a life-threatening storm and urged them to stay indoors to avoid flying debris, flooding or the risk of being electrocuted by downed power lines.

In midtown Manhattan, there was a substantial police presence on the streets but most people heeded Bloomberg's warning to stay inside.

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.

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 said Irene's winds dropped to 100 km/h on Sunday morning but forecast a storm surge of up to 2.5 meters for Long Island and metropolitan New York. That could top the flood walls protecting the south end of Manhattan.

Summer vacationers fled beach towns and resort islands. More than a million people left the New Jersey shore.


(China Daily 08/29/2011 page1)


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