Hurricane Irene tears into New York
Published : Aug 28, 2011 - 12:16
Updated : Aug 28, 2011 - 17:09

NEW YORK (AP) -- A weakened but still dangerous Hurricane Irene shut down New York and menaced other cities more accustomed to snowstorms than tropical storms as it steamed up the East Coast, unloading a foot of rain on North Carolina and Virginia and knocking out power to 2 million homes and businesses. At least eight people were killed.

Floodwaters surround this pickup truck Saturday in New Bern, N.C. (AP-Yonhap News)

New York emptied its streets and subways and waited with an eerie quiet. Washington braced for the onslaught, too, as did Philadelphia, the New Jersey shore and the Boston metropolitan area. Packing wind gusts of 115 mph, the hurricane had an enormous wingspan _ 500 miles (805 kilometers) _ and threatened a swath of the nation inhabited by 65 million people.

The hurricane stirred up seven-foot (two-meter) waves. At New York Harbor, even with the eye of the storm several hours away, there was a 3.5-foot (1-meter) storm surge early Sunday.

Across the Northeast, drenched by rain this summer, the ground was already saturated, raising the risk of flooding as well as the danger of trees falling onto homes and power lines.

Irene made its official landfall just after first light near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, at the southern end of the Outer Banks, the ribbon of land that bows out into the Atlantic Ocean. Although it was too early to assess the full extent of damage, shorefront hotels and houses were lashed with waves, two piers were destroyed and at least one hospital was forced to run on generator power.

``Things are banging against the house,'' Leon Reasor said as he rode out the storm in the town of Buxton, North Carolina. ``I just hate hurricanes.''

Eastern North Carolina got 10 inches (25 centimeters) to 14 inches (35 centimeters) of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Virginia's Hampton Roads area was drenched with at least nine inches (23 centimeters), with 16 reported in some spots.

By early Sunday, the storm had sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), down from 100 mph (161 kph) on Friday. That made it a Category 1, the least threatening on a 1-to-5 scale, and barely stronger than a tropical storm.

Nevertheless, it was still considered highly dangerous, capable of causing ruinous flooding across much of the East Coast with a combination of storm surge, high tides and six inches (15 centimeters) to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain.

There were no hurricane-force winds over land Sunday morning; they were limited to a relatively small area over the Atlantic Ocean as the eye of the storm traveled over water after touching down in North Carolina. But tropical-storm-force winds still covered a wide area of land, and Irene was still expected to be a hurricane when its eye made landfall again in the New York area around noon Sunday.

Irene was moving north-northeast at 17 mph (28 kph), slightly faster than it had been Saturday, and was centered about 195 miles (315 km) south-southwest of New York City. A typical hurricane would be moving much faster, said senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart of the National Hurricane Center.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett warned that the state will not necessarily be out of danger once the storm has passed: ``The rivers may not crest until Tuesday or Wednesday. This isn't just a 24-hour event.''

As of Saturday evening, Irene was hugging the U.S. coastline on a path that could scrape every state along the Eastern Seaboard. Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center in Florida, said it would be a ``low-end hurricane, high-end tropical storm'' by the time it crossed the New York City area late Sunday morning.

The deaths blamed on Irene included two children, an 11-year-old boy in Virginia killed when a tree crashed through his roof and a North Carolina child who died in a crash at an intersection where traffic lights were out. Four other people were killed by falling trees or tree limbs _ two in separate Virginia incidents, one in North Carolina and one in Maryland. A surfer and another beachgoer in Florida were killed in heavy waves.

Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since 2008, and came almost six years to the day after Katrina ravaged New Orleans on Aug. 29, 2005. Experts guessed that no other hurricane in American history had threatened as many people.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said Irene inflicted significant damage along her state's coast, but that some areas were unreachable because of high water or downed power lines.

At least 2.3 million people were under orders to move to somewhere safer, though it was unclear how many obeyed or, in some cases, how they could.

In New York, authorities undertook the herculean job of bringing the city to a halt. The subway began shutting down at noon, the first time the system was closed because of a natural disaster.

On Wall Street, sandbags were placed around subway grates near the East River because of fear of flooding. Tarps were spread over other grates. Construction stopped throughout the city, and workers at the site of the World Trade Center dismantled a crane and secured equipment.

The New York area's major airports _ LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark _ waved in their last arriving flights around noon. Professional sports events were postponed and Broadway theaters were dark.

New York has seen only a few hurricanes in the past 200 years. The Northeast is much more used to snowstorms _ including the blizzard last December, when Bloomberg was criticized for a slow response.

Airlines said 9,000 flights were canceled, including 3,000 on Saturday. The number of passengers affected could easily be millions because so many flights make connections on the East Coast.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter declared a state of emergency, the first for the city since 1986, when racial tensions were running high. ``We are trying to save lives and don't have time for silliness,'' he said.

The storm arrived in Washington just days after an earthquake damaged some of the capital's most famous structures, including the Washington Monument. Irene could test Washington's ability to protect its national treasures and its poor.

In New Jersey, the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, just a few miles (kilometers) from the coast, shut down as a precaution as Irene closed in. And Boston's transit authority said all bus, subway and commuter rail service would be suspended all day Sunday.



美 허리케인 피해속출…9명 사망 200만곳 정전

군 6천500명 구호작업 투입 준비

초대형 허리케인 `아이린(Irene)'이 27일(이하 현지시간) 미국 동부를 강타하면서 사망자가 9명으로 늘어나는 등 인명과 재산 피해 가 확대되고 있다.

뉴욕타임스(NYT)와 AP 등 미 언론에 따르면 버지니아에서 강풍으로 쓰러진 나무 가 아파트 지붕을 덮치면서 11살짜리 소년이 숨지는 등 지금까지 아이린으로 인해 9 명이 숨진 것으로 집계됐다.

또 노스캐롤라이나와 버지니아 등지의 주민 230만 명에게 대피 명령이 내려졌으 며 200만 가구와 업체의 전기 공급이 끊기는 등 시설 피해도 잇따랐다.

허리케인 경보 지역도 미 난터켓과 매사추세츠로 확대됐으며, 열대성 폭풍 경보 도 캐나다의 노바스코샤 남부 해안으로 확대 발령됐다.

1985년 `글로리아' 이후 처음으로 허리케인 경보가 발령된 뉴욕에서는 지하철 운행이 전면 중단됐으며 이스트강 인근 지하철 역 입구에는 범람을 우려해 모래주머 니를 쌓아 방어 턱을 만들어놓은 상태다.

타임스스퀘어에 있는 상점들도 창문을 모두 닫고 외부 현관에 모래주머니를  쌓 는 등 피해를 줄이기 위해 안간힘을 쓰고 있다.

전날 여름휴가를 중단하고 백악관으로 복귀한 버락 오바마 대통령은 이날  워싱 턴에 있는 연방재난관리청(FEMA) 본부를 방문해 "수많은 가정이 허리케인의 영향을 받을 것"이라며 철저한 대비를 강조했다.

리언 파네타 미 국방장관은 6천500명의 병력이 구호작업 투입을 위해 대기하고 있다고 말했다.

아이린은 2008년 `아이크' 이후 처음으로 미 본토를 지나가는 허리케인으로, 미 경제에도 막대한 피해를 줄 것으로 예상되고 있다.

블룸버그는 키네틱 애널리시스 분석을 인용해 아이린이 다음 주 초 캐나다나 대 서양 쪽으로 흡수되기 전까지 미 경제에 약 65억 달러의 피해를 줄 것으로 관측했다 .

현재 많은 비를 뿌리며 북동쪽으로 빠르게 이동 중인 아이린은 최고 풍속이  시 속 8O마일(129㎞)로 전날의 100마일(161㎞)보다 약해진 상태이며, 등급은 5단계에서 위험도가 가장 낮은 1등급에 속한다. (연합뉴스)