Irene Makes Second Landfall; Pounds New York City

Aug 28, 2011
Originally published on May 23, 2012 9:29 am
(This live-blog is being updated throughout the day. Scroll down for our latest posts.)

Hurricane Irene made its second landfall near Little Egg Inlet, N.J. and then as it weakened into a tropical storm, the eye hit Coney Island in Brooklyn. That means New Yorkers woke up to howling winds and pounding rain.

At one point, the East River overflowed its banks and some parts of lower Manhattan saw knee-deep water. In New Jersey, two deaths were blamed on Irene. One of them happened after a woman was washed away by a flash flood.

By noon, however, the worst appeared over. In a press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was in "pretty good shape" because of the precautions taken. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared the "worst of the storm has passed."

Irene first made U.S. landfall on Saturday morning in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Through the day and night it hugged the East Coast, as it trudged through Virginia and Maryland.

The AP reports that 21 people have died and about 4.5 million are without power.

Local television coverage of the storm has showed a great deal of wind damage, including blown off roofs, downed trees and power lines and a couple of washed out piers in North Carolina. As the Virginian-Pilot reports, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had said the storm had the potential to be "catastrophic." But in a lot of areas, the storm has fallen short of the dire predictions issued earlier in the week.

"I think it's a little strong to say we dodged a bullet, however it certainly could have turned out worse for the Hampton Roads area," weather service meteorologist Mike Montefusco told the AP.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue told the AP Irene had inflicted significant damage and some people were stranded and unreachable in North Carolina's Outer Banks.

As the storm moves north, it's continued to weaken and has continued to pick up forward speed. The bigger problem, now, will be flooding, meteorologists said.

In fact, upstate New York has already seen significant flooding. Many rivers and creeks have yet to crest, despite the fact that some gauges are measuring historic levels.

We've been following the news about Irene all week and will continue to do that through the weekend. We began this post at 7 a.m. ET and will keep it updated through the day. Be sure to hit your refresh button to see our latest updates.

Update at 11:15 p.m. ET. Storm Warnings For East Coast End:

Forecasters say storm warnings for the East Coast of the U.S. have been called off. The National Hurricane Center says Irene no longer has tropical characteristics but that it is a storm system still packing 50 mph winds as it heads to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The tropical storm warnings in effect for Canada will likely be discontinued early Monday.

Update at 11:05 p.m. ET. Vermont Flooding Update:

The Associated Press is reporting that officials are telling hundreds of people to leave their homes in Vermont and a utility is considering flooding the state's capital to save a dam amid heavy rain from Tropical Storm Irene:

Green Mountain Power warns that Montpelier could be flooded twice: once from the initial storm and again if the utility decides it must release water from the Marshfield Reservoir.

Spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure says record water levels in the reservoir are approaching the top of the Marshfield Dam.

She says that to protect the public safety and the integrity of the dam, extra water may be released, which will increase water levels along the already swollen Winooski River.

It was not clear how much water would be involved and how much damage it might do.

Schnure says the action may not be necessary if the rain continues to slow.

The Burlington Free Press reports that more than 43,000 power outages were reported in the state. They also say that flash-flood warnings have expired for most of the state, but flash-flood watches remain in effect and flood warnings are in effect into Monday.

Earlier today they reported a woman had been swept down the Deerfield River and presumed dead:

A woman believed to be 21 years old from Wilmington in southern Vermont has been swept down the Deerfield River and is presumed dead, although no body has been recovered, Gov. Peter Shumlin and state emergency officials reported at a news conference Sunday afternoon in Waterbury.

The woman, whose name has not been made public, had been on banks with her boyfriend; it is unclear how she came to be in the river, authorities said.

Update at 9:35 p.m. ET. Heavy Flooding In Vermont and New Hampshire:

WCAX-TV in Burlington, Vt. reports that several towns in the state are inundated with flooding:

Many communities in Southern Vermont are flooded; Brattleboro, Wilmington and Bennington are all underwater. The Whetstone Brook has flooded Flat Street near Sam's Department store.

Bill Hunt, the road supervisor in Wilmington, tells us Route 9 and 100 are completely impassable. He says residents are trapped in their homes because the east branch of the Deerfield River rose so quickly. He says it's worse than the flooding from the Hurricane of 1938.

WCAX-TV is also posting photos flooded areas of Vermont on its Facebook page.

In West Fairlee, Vt., the West Fairlee Volunteer Fire Department posted video of flooding in the area on their Facebook page.

In New Hampshire, video was posted on WMUR's website of a supposed landslide at Jacob's Brook in Orford, N.H.

Update at 7:45 p.m. ET. Death Toll Update:

The AP reports that 21 people are now confirmed to have died because of Irene.

Update at 6:35 p.m. ET. The Scene In New England:

As areas south of the storm begin the first steps in cleaning up, Irene is pushing through and pummeling northern New England. In Maine, NPR's Andrea de Leon reports that the northeast's Irene experience is far from over:

More than four million people in the storm zone remain without power this evening, including more than half of National Grid's customers in Connecticut. The storm continues to pummel Northern New England with wind and rain and the number of people without power is expected to rise through the evening. Some utilities are warning customers that they may be without power for up to a week.

Monday's commute will be difficult in New York City, with limited bus service. As of this evening there's been no announcement about when subway service will resume. MTBA was expected to resume normal service for Boston area commuters on Monday morning, after shutting down for most of the day on Sunday.

Plane travel began returning to normal on Sunday evening, after an estimated ten thousand flights were cancelled. Some travelers were told it could be several more days before they got a flight home.

Update at 5:15 p.m. ET. Obama Addresses Nation On Irene:

Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama says the public is still at risk of flooding and power outages. He urged people to continue to listen to the guidance of their state and local officials in the coming days.

Obama praised those officials, as well as first responders, for their work preparing and responding to the storm. He says it has been an example of how good government can benefit the public.

"The impacts of this storm will be felt for some time. And the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer," said Obama, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate.

Update at 2:41 p.m. ET. The Scene In The Outer Banks:

NPR's Greg Allen is in North Carolina and he says communities north of Oregon Inlet are "generally OK." But the sound flooded yesterday and you can tell. Greg reports:

Along the main highway in Nag's Head, wave runners and boats from a marine recreation rental store are scattered along the side of the road where they were deposited by the storm surge.

Nearly all businesses but a few convenience stores are still closed. The county says residents and property owners can return today. There's no word yet on when they'll welcome visitors back.

South of Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Island is without power and phone service. About 2,500 people there are cut off from the mainland with nothing more than two-way radio contact. The county hopes to begin running ferries to the island tomorrow with supplies. The road there, Highway 12, is impassable.

Aerial photos of Hwy 12 show that it has been washed out in some places.

Update at 2:24 p.m. ET. New York's Mass Transit Still Hampered:

Despite the fact that Mayor Bloomberg said the city of New York will be back to work Monday, it will hardly be a normal day. The city's public transportation system is still struggling to come back online and it will likely have major disruptions tomorrow. The New York Times reports:

Transit workers were still waiting for winds to die down before they could inspect the entire system. But an initial survey revealed flooded subway tracks, powerless commuter rail networks and fallen trees and branches that had rendered some rail routes impassable.

...

Even though New York escaped a punishing blow from the storm, the city will struggle to fully return to normal until the transit system, its lifeblood, is fully functional. Many businesses said they would have a hard time operating as usual if their workers cannot get there.

Mateo Lleras, a spokesman for JetBlue, said that the airline was basing its decision on when to start flying again on when the trains resume running.

Update at 2:17 p.m. ET. 'VIDEO: How New York Experienced Irene':

We've added a separate post with video of New York as Irene made landfall.

Update at 1:32 p.m. ET. A Bright Side:

There's always a bright side, right? Well New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just gave us one: He said crime in the city was dramatically down overnight. Police made only 45 arrests, when they typically make 345.

Update at 1:22 p.m. ET. New York In 'Pretty Good Shape':

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his city in "pretty good shape," thanks to the precautionary steps taken before Irene made landfall. Here are some highlights of the mayor's press conference:

-- There have been no deaths or significant injuries.

-- The Evacuation order will be lifted at 3 p.m. ET.

-- Markets will open as usual in New York on Monday.

-- The storm surge caused "serious damage."

-- 62,000 are without power.

-- 650 trees were knocked down.

-- All the bridges are open, as well as all tunnels.

-- Most residents should have power by Tuesday.

Update at 12:36 p.m. ET. Sunshine:

Here in Washington, D.C., home of NPR headquarters, it's looking like a beautiful day. The wind has subsided and the clouds have given way to blue skies. The same scene is playing in out in New York, where dark, low clouds are letting in a bit of sun.

Update at 12:32 p.m. ET. All Nuclear Facilities In New Jersey OK:

During a press conference, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Irene was not as bad as it could have been. He said all the nuclear power plants are OK.

Christie said his state will keep seeing historic flooding. In fact, both of the confirmed deaths in New Jersey were caused by flooding. One, which we reported earlier, happened after a woman was washed out in her car and the other is of a rescuer who died during an operation.

Update at 12:21 p.m. ET. Severe Flooding In Upstate New York:

The Albany Times Union reports that parts of Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga counties in New York are experiencing severe flooding. 57,000 are without power. In Green County the flooding is so severe "people [are] needing rescue from their residences."

Update at 12:12 p.m. ET. 14 Dead:

The AP reports that there are now 14 deaths blamed on Irene. This includes at least one death in New Jersey. The Star Ledger reports that death was caused after a woman got in her car and was swept away by flood waters.

Update at 12:06 p.m. ET. Inland Flooding Still A Concern:

The National Weather Service said inland flooding is still a concern as rivers have yet to crest. If you look at this map, you'll see that many river gauges in the interior Northeast are reading "major flooding."

Update at 11:37 a.m. ET. 'The Worst Of The Storm Has Passed':

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said while there's still a long way to go, "it's safe to say the worst of the storm has passed."

Napolitano said the government has begun damage assessments, especially in North Carolina, to determine "next step response and recovery."

FEMA Administrator William Fugate said preliminary damage reports coming from North Carolina are mostly due to flooding. Fugate said there's also "lots" of tree damage and some highway damage. Fugate said it would take a few days for FEMA to come up with a dollar amount.

All of that said, the National Hurricane Center said the storm is not over and as it moves north into New England it can cause some more flooding.

Update at 11:06 a.m. ET. Long Island 'Dodged A Bullet':

Charles Lane from NPR member station WSHU reports that Suffolk County which encompasses Long Island "dodged a bullet" with Irene.

"Basically, the worst of it is over," he told Newscast. "Winds never got above 71 mph," which is below hurricane speed.

Lane said authorities are still worried that the winds will whip back up and cause more damage, but as of now most of the damage is minimal: fallen trees and limbs.

The big story, said Lane, will be power outages. Lane said more than 400,000 are powerless in the region and every time he checked that number was going up.

Update at 10:39 a.m. ET. Knee Deep Water In Lower Manhattan, But Worst Appears Over:

The New York Times reports that there is knee-deep water in lower Manhattan. Here's the good news:

The eye, or center of Irene, has been sitting on top of Manhattan for the past 30 minutes or so. As it passes, the winds will shift direction and with it the risk of storm surge subsides.

CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers reports that New York City may have escaped a worst case scenario. The big storm surge did not coincide with high tide and this may have prevented the subway system from being completely flooded.

Update at 10:23 a.m. ET. Air Traffic Resumes In Washington:

Flight are resuming from Washington-area airports, reports the AP. It adds:

New York-area airports remain closed as Irene passed over the nation's busiest air-traffic region.

The longer that Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, New Jersey, airports remain shuttered, the worse it will be as travel delays ripple across the country. Federal officials said Sunday they didn't know when the airports would reopen.

Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Stay Inside:

William Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had one advice for people in places where the storm is dying down: Stay inside.

In an interview with Fox News, Fugate said people can help emergency response teams by staying off the roads. His advice for residents of New York City is to stay indoors, away from windows and move to lower floors.

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. Ocean City, Maryland Picks Up The Pieces:

NPR's Nathan Rott brings some good news from Ocean City, Maryland. Despite the fact that the eye of the storm came within 50 miles of the city, authorities said they had no reports of major damage or injuries. 7,000 people were evacuated from Ocean City ahead of the storm.

Update at 9:37 a.m. ET. North Tube Of Holland Tunnel Closed:

The New York and New Jersey Port Authority announced it had closed the north tube of the Holland Tunnel because of flooding. As the AP reports, the tunnel is "one of the main conduits between Manhattan and northern New Jersey."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Death Toll Climbs To Nine:

The AP reports that nine people have died in five states because of Tropical Storm Irene.

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. Irene Makes Landfall At Coney Island:

The eye of Irene has just moved over Coney Island in Brooklyn. That's about 20 miles from midtown Manhattan.

Update at 9:07 a.m. ET. Irene Now Tropical Storm:

As of 9 a.m., the National Hurricane Center has downgraded Irene to a tropical storm. The Hurricane Center said it had flown a plane into the storm and found maximum sustained winds at 65 mph.

The AP reports that forecasters warn that isolated tornadoes are possible with the storm.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. Power Outages Climb:

The AP now estimates that four million people along the east coast are without power.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Rescues Begin In North Carolina:

Residents on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were flooded with waist-high water as the storm moved through. Now, as the storm moves north, the rescues have begun.

Throughout the area, reports The Raleigh News and Observer, officials said rescue crews had made about 200 swiftwater rescues and they warned that there are places yet to be searched:

"There are places we haven't been," said Mark Van Sciver, a spokesman in the North Carolina Joint Information Center, in an interview this morning.

At 6 a.m. today, about 454,000 customers were without power in the state.

A total of 228 roads are closed, including 21 bridges.

In all, 56 shelters are open and are housing 4,655 people, Van Sciver said.

Update at 8:30 a.m. ET. The Scene In Midtown:

NPR's Joel Rose was near Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan this morning. He told our newscast unit that even for a Sunday morning, New York was eerily quiet.

"I've never seen it so deserted around here," he said. "It's really eerie."

Joel said there's lots of rain coming down but it's still a bit early to tell how much of that could flood lower Manhattan.

CNN is showing images of New York's East River, which has just overflowed its banks.

Update at 8:03 a.m. ET. Irene Is Still A Hurricane:

In its latest update, the National Hurricane Center reports that despite being over land, Irene is still a category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds.

But don't focus too much on the wind. The Hurricane Center warns the biggest threat is storm surge.

"An extremely dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as four to eight feet above ground level within the hurricane warning area," it says in its latest advisory. "Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large, destructive and life threatening waves."

Update at 7:50 a.m. ET. Worst Of Storm Is Expected At 10:30 a.m.:

The New York Times reports that winds of 60 to 70 miles an hour are expected across New York City. Gary Conte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said "major storm surge flooding" is expected. The reason for that is that the storm coincides with high tide. The center of the storm is expected to pass through the area at 10:30 a.m.

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