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Despite Weaker Than Expected Winds, Irene Leaves Path of Devastation: 44+ Dead, Millions Without Power, Widespread Flooding

08/29/2011 2 comments

“The full measure of Hurricane Irene’s fury came into focus Monday as the death toll passed 44, while towns in the northern U.S. region of New England battled epic floods and millions were still without electricity.

From North Carolina to Maine, communities cleaned up and took stock of the uneven and hard-to-predict costs of a storm that spared the nation’s biggest city a nightmare scenario, only to deliver a historic wallop to towns well inland.

In New York City, where people had braced for a disaster-movie scene of water swirling around skyscrapers, the subways and buses were up and running again in time for the Monday morning commute. And to the surprise of many New Yorkers, things went pretty smoothly.

But to the north, landlocked Vermont contended with what its governor called the worst flooding in a century. Streams also raged out of control in rural, upstate New York.

In many cases, the moment of maximum danger arrived well after the storm had passed, as rainwater made its way into rivers and streams and turned them into torrents. Irene dumped up to 11 inches of rain on Vermont and more than 13 inches in parts of New York.

‘We were expecting heavy rains,’ said Bobbi-Jean Jeun of Clarksville, a hamlet near Albany, New York. ‘We were expecting flooding. We weren’t expecting devastation. It looks like somebody set a bomb off.’

Irene killed at least five people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The first known casualty was a woman who died trying to cross a swollen river in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

The death toll for 11 eastern U.S. states had stood at 21 as of Sunday night, then rose sharply to at least 38 as bodies were pulled from floodwaters and people were struck by falling trees or electrocuted by downed power lines.

A driver was missing after a road collapsed and swallowed two cars about 62 miles northeast of Montreal.” Read more.

Irene forecasts on track; not up to speed on wind – “Hurricane Irene was no mystery to forecasters. They knew where it was going. But what it would do when it got there was another matter. Predicting a storm’s strength still baffles meteorologists. Every giant step in figuring out the path highlights how little progress they’ve made on another crucial question: How strong? Irene made landfall Saturday morning at Cape Lookout, N.C. – a bull’s-eye in the field of weather forecasts. It hit where forecasters said it would and followed the track they had been warning about for days. ‘People see that and assume we can predict everything,’ National Hurricane Center senior forecaster Richard Pasch said. But when Irene struck, the storm did not stick with the forecast’s predicted major hurricane strength winds.” Read more.

Hurricane Irene Leaves Trail of Damage Far Inland – “Residents along the Eastern seaboard faced a massive cleanup effort Monday after Hurricane Irene pounded tens of millions of Americans with wind, rain and floods. The huge size and slow journey of the storm along 1,100 miles of U.S. coastline left an extraordinarily broad impact. At least 24 deaths were attributed to Irene as devastation ranged from North Carolina to Vermont. Toppled trees, fallen debris and flooding caused hundreds of roads to be closed over the weekend. Up and down the coast, some 2.4 million people evacuated. In New Jersey, the ocean surge and rainfall caused severe inland flooding. Gov. Chris Christie said damages there would total at least $1 billion and could reach ‘tens of billions of dollars.’ Virginia’s governor called the blackout in his state its second-largest ever and warned that electricity might not be restored for a week.” Read more.

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