After Irene’s Impact, Flooding, Power Outages Plague East Coast
9:25 p.m. ET | With the worst of Irene’s wrath over, states up and down the East Coast were assessing the damage Sunday night, with flooding and power outages spelling out days of headache and cleanup ahead. Damage is estimated at up to $7 billion. Crews are battling water, stoplight outages, downed trees and damaged roadways.
Several communities in Vermont experienced heavy flooding, causing at least one death. Parts of the New Jersey Turnpike were closed due to flooding.
Twenty-one deaths have been reported across the East Coast, many from falling trees.
5:10 p.m. ET | President Obama made a statement in the White House Rose Garden Sunday evening alongside Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, praising the efforts of personnel involved in responding to power outages and damage caused by Irene. He praised the “exemplary effort” of a federal, state and local government agencies in preparing for and responding to the hurricane-turned-tropical storm.
Despite getting weaker Sunday, Irene “remains a dangerous storm,” the president said. With ongoing power outages and risk of flooding, “I want people to understand that this is not over,” he added.
Napolitano echoed remarks from earlier in the day. “We will be dealing with the impacts of this storm over the coming days,” she said, thanking those who had heeded calls to prepare and evacuate for freeing roads and resources for first responders.
As the storm continued north, power outages spread to Massachusetts, with as many as a half a million people affected, and as far as Maine.
In its wake, Irene left damage estimated to be in the billions, and 18 people have died, according to the Associated Press. Many of those were killed by falling trees. The fatalities took place in North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The storm has snarled transportation across the East Coast, with subways, airports, and buses shutting down over the weekend and causing widespread delays for travelers.
Flooding plagued New York City and parts of New Jersey after the height of the storm, but the evacuation order in low-lying parts of New York was lifted at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
The government has estimated that storm damage could cost more than $1 billion.
11:40 a.m. ET | Despite a less-than-feared impact in New York City, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned Sunday in a news conference that “[o]ur number one message is that we’re not out of the woods yet,” and asked drivers along coastal states between North Carolina and Maine to stay off the road to allow first responders to pass through freely. Napolitano said crews are working actively to restore power in affected areas.
After sweeping over New York, the storm is now passing over the Northeast, bringing potential flooding to parts of New England Sunday afternoon and evening.
“I think it’s safe to say that the worst of the storm…has passed,” Napolitano said.
A man walks across 42nd Street in Times Square in New York on August 28, 2011 as Hurricane Irene hits the city and Tri State area with rain and high winds. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.
Hurricane Irene knocked out power to four million homes and businesses as it made its trek up the East Coast, approaching New York and Philadelphia Sunday morning as a Tropical Storm with winds as high as 75 miles per hour, whipping winds and heavy rain.
It is expected to hit New York most intensely at 10 a.m. Sunday.
And you can follow the hurricane’s path as it moves along the coastline in this Google map:
There are states of emergency in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Connecticut to free up federal funds to deal with the damage. Irene was downgraded to a Category 1 before hitting the Mid-Atlantic region, but is still poised to do significant damage in the Northeast. There is a mandatory evacuation still in effect for low-lying neighborhoods in New York City, and the city’s subway shut down at noon on Saturday, and public transit is also shuttered in Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore and New Jersey. Major airports in the region are also closed.
The storm brings a significant logistical headache to the city. According to the New York Times,
City officials said they expected a storm surge of four to eight feet at high tide and there was concern about the Battery. Water had breached the seawall near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in Lower Manhattan. In Brooklyn, the streets nearest the Coney Island boardwalk were filling with water. Flooding was also causing problems in highways across the city, including the Henry Hudson Parkway and the West Side Highway in Manhattan and the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn.
The evacuation order affects nearly 400,000 residents.
Ten people have reportedly died as a result of the storm, many from fallen trees. A surfer in Florida was also killed in the waves. An 11-year-old boy died in Virginia when a tree fell through his apartment building and trapped him in a bedroom before rescuers could reach him.
Many parts of eastern North Carolina had up to 14 inches of rainfall.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore received similar rainfall, and a nuclear power plant in Calvert County was shut down ahead of the storm. An estimated 500,000 in or near Washington, D.C. were without power.