NEW YORK - Hurricane
Irene swept through Manhattan on Sunday but reserved the worst of its fury for
towns and suburbs up and down the northeastern United States where driving rain
and flood tides inundated homes and cut power to millions.
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On its march
up the East Coast over the weekend, the storm killed at least 21 people, left
some 5 million homes and businesses without electricity, caused widespread
flooding and downed thousands of trees. Suburban New Jersey and rural Vermont
were hit particularly hard.
Irene forced the closure of New York's mass
transit system, which will crawl back to service on Monday starting at 6
a.m. (1000 GMT), and the cancellation of thousands of flights, some of
which would resume on Monday. Most of the commuter rail service bringing
commuters from the suburbs to New York City would remain
US President Barack Obama warned the region's problems were far
from over. "Many Americans are still at risk of power outages and flooding which
could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks," Obama
said, promising federal government help for recovery efforts.
Sunday afternoon, Irene was bringing tropical storm conditions to the six states
of New England. Irene was still a tropical storm, packing winds of 50 mph (80
kph) as it approached Canada, the US National Hurricane Center said.
wasn't immediately clear how much Irene would cost but in New Jersey alone the
damage was expected in "the billions of dollars," Governor Chris Christie told
NBC's Meet the Press
. With many thousands of homeowners in the region
suffering flooding there will be many questions over whether insurance policies
offer cover and whether the federal government's flood program can handle the
claims, especially at a time of austerity in Washington and in cash-strapped
New York City's 8.5 million people are not used to hurricanes and
the city is plagued by aging infrastructure, leading many to issue dire warnings
in recent days about what the hurricane could bring.
unprecedented steps to prepare, including mandatory evacuations and a total
shutdown of mass transit systems that will have had a major economic
About 370,000 city residents who had been ordered to leave their
homes were told they could return on Sunday afternoon.
tunnels, subways and city buses will be functioning normally, but the
Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter rail would remain suspended,
stranding commuters who travel to Manhattan from suburbs to the north and
Rail service from New Jersey, home to hundreds of thousands of
people who travel into New York each day, was still out, although limited bus
services were expected to resume.
It all means that many who normally
commute into Manhattan and elsewhere in the region will find it very difficult
to get to work on Monday, though financial markets were expected to open as
normal, albeit with reduced volume.
"All in all we are in pretty good
shape," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, adding that while it would be a "tough
commute" on Monday there had been no long-term damage to the subway
Bloomberg said there were no reports of deaths or injuries in the
city, though there were some close calls. In Staten Island, firefighters with
boats rescued more than 60 people including three babies from 21 homes flooded
with five feet (1.5 metres) of water.
While it weakened before it hit New
York, the swirling storm still packed a wallop, especially in districts such as
the Rockaways peninsula, a low-lying strip of land exposed to the Atlantic Ocean
on the southeastern flank of the city.
Authorities closed three bridges
leading to the peninsula before the storm.
Four people were killed
in Pennsylvania from the effects of Hurricane Irene, including two men killed by
falling trees, a state official said. That raised the US total to 21 dead in
addition to three who were killed in the Dominican Republic and one in Puerto
Rico when the storm was still in the Caribbean.
Virginia Governor Bob
McDonnell, whose state was hit earlier by the Hurricane, told CNN "We prepared
for the worst but came out a little better than expected. Unfortunately now,
four fatalities have been confirmed," "We've got some significant damage in some
areas, from flooding, from wind, a lot of trees down, 2.5 million people or more
without power in Virginia, that's the second largest outage in history," he
In North Carolina, where authorities confirmed at least six
storm-related deaths since the hurricane made landfall on Saturday, Governor Bev
Perdue was expected to request a federal disaster declaration.
dumped up to eight inches (20 cm) of rain on the Washington region, but the
capital avoided major damage.
As the storm moved north on Sunday, New
England officials reported flooded roadways, trees downed over rail tracks and
evacuations in some towns.
The storm zone stretched from Massachusetts'
eastern islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to the western Berkshires
mountain range, where authorities braced for dam failures because of the heavy