US East Coast communities brace for Hurricane Irene

Members of the Jewish community of Virginia Beach, a coastal town near the expected trajectory of the tempest are following developments closely.

August 26, 2011 00:47
3 minute read.
Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

NEW YORK – Communities along the eastern seaboard of the US braced on Thursday for the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene.

The category 3 hurricane that has pounded parts of the Caribbean with rain and winds of up to 210 km. an hour was slowly advancing from the Bahamas in a northerly direction toward North Carolina.

In Virginia, members of the Jewish community of Virginia Beach, a coastal town located near the expected trajectory of the tempest, were following developments closely.

“We’re worried but we hope for the best,” said Rabbi Israel Zoberman of Congregation Beth Chaverim, which is located a few blocks from the beach. “We have not been asked to evacuate although that could happen as we are so close to the water.”

The Reform rabbi said he had been through several hurricanes before and recalled the last one to hit Virginia Beach decades ago.

“It was very scary,” he said. “The trees around you start shaking, winds blow violently and there’s flooding everywhere.”

Michelle Aronoff, the office manager of Beth Israel Congregation, an Orthodox shul in nearby Norfolk, Virginia, circulated an advisory to its members about the coming storm.

“We’re monitoring the situation, but we’re a bit further inland from Virginia Beach,” she said. “Right now they’re following the path of the cone and there could be a 200-mile difference. If this goes even 10 miles east that will make a big difference.”

Forecasters said Irene would gain strength over the Atlantic and barrel its way along the East Coast, making landfall in New England over the weekend.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday told press that city hall was busy preparing for the possibility that Irene will hit the area.

“We don’t have enough information yet to make that call,” Bloomberg said. “The timing is a bit up in the air, as it is with all these things. Sometime on Friday, late in the day. How many depends on how severe we think the storm is going to be.”

Meanwhile, coastal communities in Florida and South Carolina let out a sigh of relief after hearing they would be spared the worst of the storm, which curled northward.

“There was some concern earlier in the week that the hurricane will hit us, but it turns out that all signs indicate that it’s turning northward,” said Rabbi Adam Rosenbaum of Charleston, South Carolina.

Still, he said local authorities in the city that was badly hit by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 were not taking any chances.

“From what I’ve been told is that it’s going to be shouted from the rafters if we have to evacuate and go to shelters,” Rosenbaum said. “The word travels quickly in Charleston.”

News of the expected hurricane came a day after a rare 5.8 magnitude earthquake rattled the East Coast.

The Pentagon and Capitol buildings in Washington were evacuated and two nuclear reactors were taken out of commission as a safety precaution.

In New York, workers who felt the tremors evacuated high-rise buildings in the middle of the day and spilled into the streets.

“I felt the tremors of the earthquake, but to be honest it was much less rocky than a typical debate on the floor of the Security Council,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said.

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