Now A Tropical Storm, Irene Pounds New York City

August 28, 2011

Eyder Peralta

Timothy A. Clary
A person makes their way in the rain in Times Square in New York on Sunday, as Hurricane Irene hits the city and Tri State area with rain and high winds.

(This live-blog is being updated throughout the day. Scroll down for our latest posts.)

Hurricane Irene made its second landfall near Little Egg Inlet, N.J. around 5:35 a.m. That means New Yorkers woke up to howling winds and pounding rain.

By the time Irene made landfall, it was barely a hurricane but it has already caused plenty of damage. Irene first made landfall on Saturday morning in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Through the day and night it hugged the East Coast, as it trudged through Virginia and Maryland.

The AP reports that eight people have died and about four million are without power.

Local television coverage of the storm has shown a great deal of wind damage, including blown off roofs, downed trees and power lines and a couple of washed out piers in North Carolina. As the Virginian-Pilot reports, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell had said the storm had potential of being "catastrophic." But in a lot of areas, reports the paper, the storm has fallen short of the worst predictions.

"I think it's a little strong to say we dodged a bullet, however it certainly could have turned out worse for the Hampton Roads area," weather service meteorologist Mike Montefusco told the AP.

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue told the AP Irene had inflicted significant damage and some people were stranded and unreachable.

In its 5 A.M. advisory, the National Hurricane Center said Irene continues to weaken, but its windfield continues to expand and they warn that more than most hurricanes, Irene's winds "increase sharply with height above the surface." That means that people in high-rise buildings are at special risk.

We've been following the news about Irene all week and will continue to do that through the weekend. We began this post at 7 a.m. ET and will keep it updated through the day. Be sure to hit your refresh button to see our latest updates.

Update at 10:39 a.m. ET. Knee Deep Water In Lower Manhattan, But Worst Appears Over:

The New York Times reports that there is knee-deep water in lower Manhattan. Here's the good news:

The eye, or center of Irene, has been sitting on top of Manhattan for the past 30 minutes or so. As it passes, the winds will shift direction and with it the risk of storm surge subsides.

CNN's meteorologist Chad Myers reports that New York City may have escaped a worst case scenario. The big storm surge did not coincide with high tide and this may have prevented the subway system from being completely flooded.

Update at 10:23 a.m. ET. Air Traffic Resumes In Washington:

Flight are resuming from Washington-area airports, reports the AP. It adds:

New York-area airports remain closed as Irene passed over the nation's busiest air-traffic region.

The longer that Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, New Jersey, airports remain shuttered, the worse it will be as travel delays ripple across the country. Federal officials said Sunday they didn't know when the airports would reopen.

Update at 10:16 a.m. ET. Stay Inside:

William Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, had one advice for people in places where the storm is dying down: Stay inside.

In an interview with Fox News, Fugate said people can help emergency response teams by staying off the roads. His advice for residents of New York City is to stay indoors, away from windows and move to lower floors.

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. Ocean City, Maryland Picks Up The Pieces:

NPR's Nathan Rott brings some good news from Ocean City, Maryland. Despite the fact that the eye of the storm came within 50 miles of the city, authorities said they had no reports of major damage or injuries. 7,000 people were evacuated from Ocean City ahead of the storm.

Update at 9:37 a.m. ET. North Tube Of Holland Tunnel Closed:

The New York and New Jersey Port Authority announced it had closed the north tube of the Holland Tunnel because of flooding. As the AP reports, the tunnel is "one of the main conduits between Manhattan and northern New Jersey."

Update at 9:35 a.m. ET. Death Toll Climbs To Nine:

The AP reports that nine people have died in five states because of Tropical Storm Irene.

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. Irene Makes Landfall At Coney Island:

The eye of Irene has just moved over Coney Island in Brooklyn. That's about 20 miles from midtown Manhattan.

Update at 9:07 a.m. ET. Irene Now Tropical Storm:

As of 9 a.m., the National Hurricane has downgraded Irene to a tropical storm. The Hurricane Center said it had flown a plane into the storm and found maximum sustained winds at 65 mph.

The AP reports that forecasters warn that isolated tornadoes are possible with the storm.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET. Power Outages Climb:

The AP now estimates that four million people along the east coast are without power.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. Rescues Begin In North Carolina:

Residents on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were flooded with waist-high water as the storm moved through. Now, as the storm moves north, the rescues have begun.

Throughout the area, reports The Raleigh News and Observer, officials said rescue crews had made about 200 swiftwater rescues and they warned that there are places yet to be searched:

"There are places we haven't been," said Mark Van Sciver, a spokesman in the North Carolina Joint Information Center, in an interview this morning.

At 6 a.m. today, about 454,000 customers were without power in the state.

A total of 228 roads are closed, including 21 bridges.

In all, 56 shelters are open and are housing 4,655 people, Van Sciver said.

Update at 8:30 a.m. ET. The Scene In Midtown:

NPR's Joel Rose was near Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan this morning. He told our newscast unit that even for a Sunday morning, New York was eerily quiet.

"I've never seen it so deserted around here," he said. "It's really eerie."

Joel said there's lots of rain coming down but it's still a bit early to tell how much of that could flood lower Manhattan.

CNN is showing images of New York's East River, which has just overflowed its banks.

Update at 8:03 a.m. ET. Irene Is Still A Hurricane:

In its latest update, the National Hurricane Center reports that despite being over land, Irene is still a category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds.

But don't focus too much on the wind. The Hurricane Center warns the biggest threat is storm surge.

"An extremely dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as four to eight feet above ground level within the hurricane warning area," it says in its latest advisory. "Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large, destructive and life threatening waves."

Update at 7:50 a.m. ET. Worst Of Storm Is Expected At 10:30 a.m.:

The New York Times reports that winds of 60 to 70 miles an hour are expected across New York City. Gary Conte, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said "major storm surge flooding" is expected. The reason for that is that the storm coincides with high tide. The center of the storm is expected to pass through the area at 10:30 a.m.

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