Irene slams into New Jersey shore, shuts down NYC

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Irene slams into New Jersey shore, shuts down NYC

NEW YORK — Hurricane Irene sped toward a shuttered New York City on Sunday with 75 mph (120 kph) winds, killing nine people and knocking out power to 3 million homes as the massive storm drenched the East Coast.

By (AP)

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Published: Sun 28 Aug 2011, 6:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:40 PM

Irene had an enormous wingspan — 500 miles (805 kilometers) wide — and threatened 65 million people on the East Coast, estimated at largest number of Americans ever affected by a single storm. It unloaded a foot (30 centimeters) of rain on southern states before reaching New Jersey.

New York turned eerily quiet as the city hunkered down, crippled after the entire transit system was shut down because of weather for the first time in history. All the city’s airports were closed, with over 9,000 flights canceled. Broadway shows, baseball games and other events were all canceled or postponed.

‘The time for evacuation is over. Everyone should now go inside and stay inside,’ New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned late Saturday.

With steady, heavy rain falling in America’s largest city, there was nothing left to do but wait. There were sandbags on Wall Street, tarps over subway grates and plywood on windows — at least ones low enough to reach. The entire subway system stopped rolling for the first time ever. Broadway and baseball were canceled.

And 370,000 people had been ordered to move to safer ground, although they appeared in great numbers to have stayed put.

The National Hurricane Center said early Sunday that Irene was speeding up as it moved to the north-northeast at 25 mph (40 kph). It still had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph) with the hurricane’s eye only about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south-southwest of New York City.

Forecasters said there was a chance a storm surge on the fringes of Lower Manhattan could send seawater streaming into the maze of underground vaults that hold the city’s cables and pipes, knocking out power to thousands and crippling the nation’s financial capital. Officials’ feared water lapping at Wall Street, the site of the former World Trade Center and the luxury high-rise apartments of Battery Park City.

Hours before the storm’s centre reached New York, a 58 mph (93 kph) wind gust hit John F. Kennedy International Airport and a storm surge of more than 3.5 feet (1 meter) struck New York Harbor.

Battery Park City in lower Manhattan was virtually deserted as rain and gusty winds pummeled streets and whipped trees. Officials were bracing for a storm surge of several feet that could flood or submerge the Promenade along the Hudson River.

In Times Square, shops boarded up windows and sandbags were stacked outside of stores. Construction at the World Trade Center site came to a standstill.

But taxi cabs were open for business.

‘I have to work. I would lose too much money,’ said cabbie Dwane Imame, who worked through the night. ‘There have been many people, I have been surprised. They are crazy to be out in this weather.’

New York has seen only a few hurricanes in the past 200 years. The Northeast is much more used to snowstorms — including a blizzard last December, when Bloomberg was criticised for a slow city response.

The National Hurricane Center said the centre of the huge storm reached New Jersey at 5:35 a.m. Eastern (1035 GMT). The eye previously reached land Saturday in North Carolina before returning to the Atlantic, tracing the East Coast shoreline.

In North Carolina, shorefront hotels and houses were lashed with waves, two piers were destroyed and at least one hospital was forced to run on generator power.

The number of airline passengers affected by the storm could easily be in the millions because so many flights make connections on the East Coast.

Irene caused flooding from North Carolina to Delaware, both from the 7-foot (2 meter) waves it pushed into the coast and from heavy rain.

More than one million of the homes and businesses without power were in Virginia and North Carolina, which bore the brunt of Irene’s initial march. Then the storm knocked out power overnight to hundreds of thousands in Washington, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, the New York City area and Connecticut.

Eastern North Carolina got up to 14 inches (35 centimeters) of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Virginia’s Hampton Roads area was drenched with at least nine inches (23 centimeters), and up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) in some places.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said Irene inflicted significant coastal damage, but some areas were unreachable because of high water or downed power lines.

A nuclear reactor at Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs went offline automatically when winds knocked off a large piece of aluminum siding late Saturday night. Constellation Energy Nuclear Group said the facility and all employees were safe.

Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since 2008, and came almost six years to the day after Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter declared a state of emergency, the first for the city since 1986. ‘We are trying to save lives and don’t have time for silliness,’ he said.

The storm hit Washington just days after an earthquake damaged some of the capital’s most famous structures, including the Washington Monument.

In New Jersey, the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, just a few miles (kilometers) from the coast, shut down as a precaution as Irene closed in. And Boston’s transit authority said all bus, subway and commuter rail service were suspended Sunday.

The deaths blamed on Irene included two children, an 11-year-old boy in Virginia killed when a tree crashed through his roof and a North Carolina child who died in a crash at an intersection where traffic lights were out. Four other people were killed by falling trees or tree limbs — two in separate Virginia incidents, one in North Carolina and one in Maryland. A surfer and another beachgoer in Florida were killed in heavy waves.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett warned that the state will not necessarily be out of danger once the storm has passed.

‘The rivers may not crest until Tuesday or Wednesday. This isn’t just a 24-hour event,’ he said.



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