Hurricane Irene slams Big Apple; leaves 3 mn powerless in US

August 28th, 2011 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 28 (IANS) Hurricane Irene slammed New York city Sunday, leaving the Big Apple without power in some 85,000 homes, including nearly 21,000 in Queens with the largest concentration of Indian Americans in the US.

Though weakened to a tropical storm now, Irene bore down on the city, bringing winds and rapidly rising seawater and causing major power outages as New Yorkers awoke to downpours and whipping winds Sunday.

New York City’s Hudson and East rivers overflowed and river water began flooding into streets of Manhattan as some three million homes and businesses on the US eastern seaboard lost power. Officials said it could be days before power is restored.

The hurricane flooded several towns in its path and killed at least nine people before reaching New York.

Lower Manhattan was a ghost town, with only policemen and news crews outside to hear the winds whistle between the high-rise buildings, according to New York Daily News.

As of 7 a.m., high tide was at the eight-foot mark at Battery Park and water was lapping at the streets. Normal high tide is five feet.

On Wall Street, sand bags were piled atop subway grates near the East river. Tarps were spread over other grates. Trees were down in the lower East Side and Times Square remained eerily quiet, it said.

In northern Queens, the heaviest weather has been coming in waves. Strong steady winds and howling car-shaking gusts would come for periods of five to 10 minutes, accompanied by heavy downpours, then followed by lighter rain, Daily News said.

Hours before the storm’s centre was to reach New York, a 58 miles per hour (93 km per hour) wind gust hit John F. Kennedy International Airport and a storm surge of more than 3.5 feet was reported in New York Harbour, media reports said.

The National Hurricane Centre said the eye of the huge storm reached land near Little Egg Inlet in New Jersey, about 85 miles (136 km) south-southwest of New York, at 5.35 a.m.

The storm centre previously reached land Saturday in North Carolina before returning to the Atlantic, straddling the East Coast.

Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in the continental US since 2008, and came almost six years to the day after Katrina ravaged New Orleans Aug 29, 2005.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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