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New York spared the worst as Irene loses strength

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-08-29

Tropical storm Irene has spared New York serious damage with forecasters saying the worst was over by Sunday evening. Irene, which left 14 people dead, was downgraded to tropical storm status as it continued up the American east coast.

AFP - Tropical storm Irene lashed New York Sunday, shutting down America's largest city but sparing it serious damage after killing 14 people on the US east coast and flooding many parts of the region.

The eye of the storm -- downgraded from a hurricane, but still blasting up to 65-mile-an-hour (105-kilometer-an-hour) winds and near horizontal rain -- passed over the Big Apple mid-morning, as millions went without power along the coast.

North Carolina bears the brunt of Hurricane Irene

Localized flooding occurred in the south and east of Manhattan, with more serious incidents in Brooklyn, where the famed Coney Island amusement park took a battering and outlying beaches were swamped.

There was heavy flooding along the low-lying south shore of Long Island where TV footage showed the high tide, rain and ocean surge drive waves right up against expensive beach houses. Floods were also reported far inland after torrential rain.

At least 14 deaths have been blamed on Hurricane Irene, which slammed into North Carolina on Saturday with 85-mile-an-hour (140-kilometer-an-hour) winds and began tracking up the coast.

The youngest victim, an 11-year-old boy, died when a tree crashed through his apartment building in Newport News, Virginia.

Strong winds were expected in New York until nightfall Sunday, but the storm -- the first hurricane to hit the Big Apple for a generation -- was weakening rapidly as it continued up towards Boston.

"The worst is behind us," New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Still smarting from criticism over the city's slow response last winter to a big snowstorm, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had ordered extreme precautions ahead of Irene.

He told 370,000 people to evacuate their homes and shut down the entire public transport system.

Subway trains, buses and the Staten Island ferry closed, as did all nearby airports, paralyzing the area and leading to cancellation of thousands of flights. The Holland Tunnel and part of the George Washington Bridge, connecting New York City to New Jersey, also briefly shut on Sunday.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie ordered the evacuation of more than a million residents from beach communities.

The calm before the storm in Coney Island, NY
Storm clouds began clearing by Sunday afternoon. However, residents faced what was likely to be a difficult start to the week.

The New York Stock Exchange said it was set to reopen as normal Monday morning, but city officials warned that commuting into New York could be a nightmare, with no immediate indication of when public transport will be back on track.

In Atlantic City, a gambling resort on the New Jersey shore, locals started to put their lives back together, while counting the cost.

Riaz Rajput was busy removing plywood storm screens from the windows of his shop. It wasn't damaged, but his wallet still took a hit as a result of the high season shutdown.

"We were expecting to make good money, but you cannot fight with mother nature," he said.

Irene also left swaths of territory without power.

In New Jersey alone, 650,000 people had lost power supplies, the governor said, while in New York City the number reached 62,000 people, Bloomberg said.

The worst outages were in the greater Washington area where nearly two million people lost electricity.

Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell told MSNBC his state had seen the second biggest power outage in its history. "It's going to be days, perhaps a week, before all the power's restored. We just ask people to be patient."

Some 65 million people live in the urban corridor from Washington north to Boston, and experts have said the damage could run into the tens of billions of dollars.

Hurricanes are rare in the northeastern United States -- the last major hurricane to hit New York was Gloria in 1985.

Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center reported that a new tropical storm, Jose, had formed and was approaching Bermuda.


Date created : 2011-08-28

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