Pattaya Daily News

28 August 2011 :: 07:08:13 am 57752

Hurricane Irene surges ashore on track to New York

NEW YORK, August 27, 2011 - Hurricane Irene clobbered the US east coast Saturday, killing at least three people and paralyzing air traffic before barreling north on course for a rare direct hit on New York City.
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Packing winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) an hour, Irene was a weakened but still massive category one storm when it made landfall at 8:00 am (1200 GMT) at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, near a chain of barrier islands.

Spiraling north, the storm was due overnight to start pounding metropolitan New York City and New Jersey, where well over a million people have been evacuated following dire warnings of storm surges and flooding.

New York was to shut down area airports — including John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia — at 10:00pm (0200 GMT), snarling air traffic after the cancellation of hundreds of flights earlier in the day.

In North Carolina, sea water surged through beach communities, ripping out wooden piers and flooding vacation homes, as torrential rains and high winds left at least 800,000 people without power there and in neighboring Virginia.

In Newport News, Virginia a tree fell on an apartment complex, crushing an 11-year-old boy who was inside but sparing his mother, according to a city official.

In North Carolina a man died of a heart attack while boarding up his windows, another died when his car hydroplaned off the road, and a third man went missing after falling or being pushed into a river, officials said.

Governors and mayors in several states have issued evacuation orders and repeatedly warned that Irene is still a full-fledged hurricane, and could unleash deadly storm surges, tornadoes and flooding.

Some 65 million people live in the urban corridor from Washington north to Boston, and experts have said the devastation could cost billions of dollars.

“This is going to be a very serious storm, no matter what the track is, no matter how much it weakens. This is a life threatening storm to people here,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg has ordered an unprecedented mass evacuation and the rare closure of the city’s extensive subway system, which began when the final trains and buses left depots at 1500 GMT.

US President Barack Obama, who cut short his summer vacation, visited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s operations center in Washington, where he said the east coast was in for a “long 72 hours.”

Though weakened, Irene was forecast “to remain at or near hurricane strength as it moves near or over the mid-Atlantic states and approaches New England,” the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said at 1800 GMT.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged residents to abide by local evacuation orders, warning the “window of preparation is quickly closing.”

“Even if you’re not in an evacuation zone, please know this is a big storm that covers a lot of territory. Be prepared,” she told CNN.

Bloomberg warned New Yorkers not to be deceived by the storm’s weakening, urging the 370,000 residents in low-lying areas under evacuation orders not to wait “until there are gale-force wind and rain to leave.”

“Let’s stop thinking this is something that we can play with. Staying behind is dangerous. Staying behind is foolish. And it’s against the law. The time to leave is right now,” he said.

New York state meanwhile said major links into the city would be cut if winds exceeded 60 miles per hour, as predicted.

In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie announced that more than one million people have been evacuated from coastal regions.

Irene’s approach stirred painful memories of Hurricane Katrina, which smashed into the Gulf Coast in 2005, stranding thousands of people in New Orleans and overwhelming poorly prepared local and federal authorities.

Hurricanes are rare in the northeastern United States — the last major hurricane to hit New York was Gloria in 1985.

The US military said up to 101,000 National Guard soldiers were available if needed and designated military bases in three states as staging areas.

Chuck Watson, research director at Kinetic Analysis, which does computer modeling of predicted storm damage, estimated $11 billion or $12 billion from Irene in a “worst-case scenario”.

Despite the dire warnings, there were still scattered holdouts who ignored the evacuation orders and accused officials of hyping the danger.

“I’m going to stay here. I’m going to sleep here. A lot of wind, a lot of water. That’s all. Things happen,” Harry Poulakakos, a cafe owner in New York’s financial district, said. “Don’t worry too much.”

Reporter : AFP   Photo : AFP   Category : World News

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