Irene Pounds Coast, Leaves Power Outages and Flooding in Aftermath


hurricane-irene8Hurricane Irene hit New York City on Sunday morning as a weakened tropical storm after raking the Eastern seaboard from North Carolina to New Jersey. So far, the storm has killed 11 people and left millions without power.By 9 a.m. today, Irene was packing winds of 65 miles an hour, down from 75 mph earlier in the morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its center was moving over New York City and heading northeast at 26 miles an hour.

Irene was expected to weaken further as it moved through New York, forecasters said. Despite its reduced intensity, the storm is still expected to cause massive flooding and power outages and to bring down thousands of trees.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said about 750,000 homes and businesses were without power across the state. Consolidated Edison Inc. said Sunday morning that there is still a strong possibility that the utility will deliberately shut down power in Lower Manhattan and other areas as officials continue to monitor the storm.

“We’re still in the middle of looking at it now,” said Alfonso Quiroz, a Con Ed spokesman. “It all really depends on how high the water level gets. The surge is hitting now.” He said a deliberate shutdown, if deemed necessary, is helpful because it expedites restoration when the storm ends.

Con Edison currently has 85,000 customers in the region who have lost power because of high winds. Officials expect that number to increase. Restoration could take anywhere from a few days to a week.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration kept open all city bridges spanning the East River throughout the storm, a sign that Hurricane Irene didn’t have as significant an impact on New York City as officials initially anticipated.

The only bridges closed were the three spans to the Rockaways in Queens. That happened at 2 a.m. Sunday, officials said. The mayor had ordered the entire Rockaways peninsula to be evacuated by 5 a.m. Saturday, and he estimated on Saturday that 80% of residents there had complied.

New York City residents Amy Eagle, right, and Rich Thompson take an early- morning walk just before high tide along the World Financial Center Esplanade as the effects of Hurricane Irene are felt in Manhattan Sunday in New York City. Hurricane Irene made a second landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey early Sunday morning, battering the northeast with high winds and rain.

Cas Holloway, the newly minted deputy mayor for operations, told New York 1, “There has not been any uptick of EMS calls beyond what we would expect.” He said there are no reports of major injuries or deaths in the five boroughs, though officials on Sunday morning remained concerned about flooding from a storm surge in low-lying areas.

On Long Island, about 383,000 people lacked power Sunday morning, according to the Long Island Power Authority. Local government teams were out Sunday morning clearing trees and debris, but utility officials did not expect power to be restored quickly.

The north tube of the Holland Tunnel, which handles traffic to New Jersey, also was closed Sunday morning due to flooding, according to Cuomo’s office. New Jersey-bound traffic was being diverted to the Lincoln Tunnel.

In New Jersey, more than 400,000 people were without power. Gov. Chris Christie said in national TV interviews on Sunday morning that damages in the state would total at least $1 billion and could reach “tens of billions of dollars.” Areas of the Jersey Shore were pounded by wind, rain and floods, while rivers throughout the state were expected to produce heavy flooding for several days.

A boil-water advisory was issued for parts of Essex and Union Counties, the New Jersey American Water Co. said. People in the affected areas were told to boil water before using it, after the Canoe Brook water treatment plant was “inundated,” the company said.

In states still awaiting Irene’s arrival, residents were already feeling the effects. Some 377,000 residences in Connecticut lacked power on Sunday morning, according to Connecticut Light and Power. In Massachusetts, power outages were mounting as well, with the three main electric utilities reporting about 34,000 customers off line. Meanwhile, Boston’s mass transit agency shut operations on Sunday morning as planned.

Travel plans snarled as the storm advanced. More than 6,000 flights were canceled as of Sunday morning, with the heaviest shutdowns concentrated in Greater New York, Boston and Philadelphia, according to, a website that tracks flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration suspended air traffic control services at John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia airports on Saturday night. Airlines at those three airports cancelled more than 3,000 flights on Sunday, according to FlightStats.

Many East Coast airports remain open–albeit with empty runways–while others, in the Mid-Atlantic, are slowly re-launching service now that Hurricane Irene has moved northward.

The only flights Boston’s Logan International Airport might see on Sunday are two late-night international arrivals, said Phil Orlandella, an airport spokesman. U.S. carriers say they plan to resume operations as early as 6 a.m. Monday and no later than noon, the spokesman said.

Airlines have canceled more than 1,000 flights to and from Philadelphia International Airport, which closed Saturday night. The airport will remain closed until airport management and city officials can assess the damage, an airport spokeswoman said.

In Cape May, N.J., hotels urged guests to leave in advance of Hurricane Irene’s approach this weekend. The mandatory evacuation of all of Cape May County began at 8 a.m. on Friday.

Some East Coast cities where Hurricane Irene has already passed are starting to ramp back up operations. Baltimore Washington International Airport said its operations are expected to “slowly” resume Sunday. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees Reagan National and Dulles International, said its airports are open with “no major damage” from Saturday’s storms, though cancellations are expected for Northeast travel.

As Irene continued to churn north, areas already soaked by the storm turned their attention to recovery efforts. The storm was blamed for at least 11 deaths, according to the Associated Press.

More than one million customers were without power in North Carolina and northern Virginia as crews began assessing the damage, two of the region’s largest utilities said. Progress Energy Inc. reported about 235,000 customers without power concentrated in coastal North Carolina. Dominion Resources Inc. (D) reported about 783,000 customers in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia without power.

In North Carolina, where Irene claimed at least five lives, Gov. Bev Perdue said she aimed to assess the damage to the state’s eastern corridor from the air as early as Sunday morning, according to the Associated Press.

Emergency teams in New Bern, N.C., 30 miles inland from where Irene made landfall, carried out more than 100 high-water rescues Saturday, as the storm surge triggered inland flooding.

But as of Sunday morning, there were no reports of any deaths in Craven County, pop. 100,000, where the rescues took place, said county manager Harold Blizzard. Most of the flooding was caused as Irene pushed water from the Atlantic Ocean into Pamlico Sound and other inlets and rivers.

About 80% of the county was still without power Sunday morning, and it could take “days” before it’s fully restored, said Blizzard.

Tornados that spun off Irene thrashed some states along Irene’s course. In New Jersey, a twister touched down near Chatsworth, in the south central part of the state, according to emergency management officials in Burlington County. Around 6:15 p.m. Saturday, residents near Lewes, Del., reported a tornado touchdown, according to Sussex County spokesman Chip Guy. Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced a tornado watch Saturday evening.

President Barack Obama was briefed on Hurricane Irene on Saturday evening, after a stop at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington earlier in the day. Mr. Obama was updated by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and others on the storm and the federal government’s response, the White House said in a statement. Earlier in the day, the president declared a state of emergency in Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia and Massachusetts.

Eqecat Inc., an Oakland, Calif., firm that provides risk models for catastrophes, estimated insured losses in North and South Carolina would range from $200 million to $400 million. The company said that while Irene remains an “expansive hurricane,” its effects in North Carolina and Virginia weren’t expected to be as severe as that of Hurricane Floyd, which caused widespread flooding in 1999.

{The Wall Street Journal/ Newscenter}