Tropical Storm Irene Moves Into Northeastern US

Posted August 28th, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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Floodwaters are receding in New York City as Tropical Storm Irene moves farther up the eastern U.S. coast, leaving a soaked, battered landscape in its wake.

Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it approached the city early Sunday, but it still managed to flood some streets and a traffic tunnel in lower Manhattan, as the East and Hudson rivers rose with high tide.

The storm has killed at least 11 people and paralyzed ground and air traffic in its journey up the eastern U.S. coast.

Irene carries with it the threat of flash flooding and the possibility of large trees falling because the soil is so saturated. Several of the deaths from the storm have been due to falling trees.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has predicted record-level flooding for parts of his coastal state, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has warned that rivers in the affected areas of his state may not crest until Tuesday or Wednesday.

At last report, the National Hurricane Center said Irene is moving northeast with winds of 120 kilometers per hour.

Forecasters say Irene will move into southern New England by Sunday afternoon before reaching Canada Sunday night. In areas where the storm has already passed, weather officials say the damage from the storm is not as severe as they feared it would be.

But the effects of the storm did force two nuclear reactors to cease operations – one in Maryland and one in New Jersey. Authorities say the facilities are safe, and no one has been harmed.

Irene blasted ashore in North Carolina early Saturday, flooding streets and toppling trees with winds of 140 kilometer per hour. The storm later moved into the Washington, DC area, which was hit with strong winds, heavy rain, localized flooding and falling trees.

More than four million homes and businesses in the eastern U.S. lost power because of the storm, which is passing through some of the country's most densely populated areas. Suspected tornadoes spurned by the hurricane destroyed homes in Delaware and Virginia.

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the city's first ever mandatory evacuation in low-lying areas of the city, including the Wall Street financial district. And in another first, New York's entire public transit system, including subway trains and buses, was shut down before the storm, as well as all three of New York's major airports.

Airlines canceled thousands of flights up and down the east coast, and train service in parts of the eastern region was suspended.

Irene was the first hurricane to seriously threaten the United States in three years. Besides the U.S. fatalities, Irene killed at least one person in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic, and destroyed homes in the Bahamas.

It came almost six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina flooded the southern city of New Orleans, killing more than 1,800 people and forcing more than a million residents from their homes.