Sunday, August 28, 2011

Live blog: Irene now a tropical storm; New York's East River rising

New York's East River and Hudson River topped their banks Sunday morning, sending water into Lower Manhattan, where hundreds of thousands of people had evacuated and millions more were hunkered down to wait out the massive hurricane centered just a few miles away.
Authorities had halted public transportation, closed bridges and tunnels and buttoned up ports, essentially locking down the city of more than 8 million people as wind and rain picked up as Hurricane Irene began to lash the city.
The center of the hurricane is expected to make landfall after 10 a.m. near the Long Island city of Long Beach, where massive berms were already breached by 8 a.m., with water pushing northward into town. The water ripped a lifeguard building from its foundation and streets were flooded.
Follow the latest developments here, or read the full CNN Wire story:
[Update 9:31 a.m. Sunday] The FDR Drive is closed in both directions at Houston Street in Manhattan due to flooding conditions, according to NYC officials. Extensive traffic delays are expected.
[Update 9:31 a.m. Sunday] People should "stay inside, stay safe" and "let the power crews do their jobs" as Hurricane Irene continues to move north, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told CNN on Sunday.
"For a lot of folks, the danger still exists," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said. "We still will have trees coming down, heavy rain, strong winds."
[Update 9:24 a.m. Sunday] People who were forced to evacuate due to Hurricane Irene should only return to their homes when local officials say all is clear, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday.
Craig Fugate also told the NBC program "Meet the Press" that some of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost power during the storm may not get their electricity restored for days.
[Update 9:19 a.m. Sunday] Rhode Island is now experiencing heavy rain and high winds, according to CNN staff on scene.
"61 thousand families are without power, and pretty much every community is affected," said Christine Hunsinger, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.
Hunsiger said that several hundred people have taken advantage of shelters, and, "we did see a lot of cooperation in the mandatory
evacuation zones." She says they do not anticipate widening the evacuation zones any more, but that it is a local decision.
[Update 9:18 a.m. Sunday] New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned residents to still remain inside from the wrath of Irene.
"Do not leave your homes," he said. " People want to get out there right now, but its still not safe to get out there. We’ve got flooding everywhere. Its very dangerous for folks to get out there already.”
He noted that even though Irene is now a tropical storm, there are still a lot of flooding concerns.
"We have a serious situation in New Jersey," he said. "Half of our state is still being covered by the storm.”
He said that rivers were swelling to record levels and the state has closed over 250 roads and there are 15,000 people in emergency shelters.
"Our real concern is flooding," Christie said.  "We’re talking about not only coastal flooding, but inland."
[Update 9:07 a.m. Sunday] Irene has weakened to a tropical storm with 65 mph winds.
[Update 9:06 a.m. Sunday] CNN's Rob Marciano is reporting from Long Beach, New York that in the last ten minutes the wind has shifted and the area is seeing the "most intense weather" so far.
“We are getting whats left of Irene’s right eye wall,” Marciano said. "Winds have been sustained, easily at 50 mph where we stand with much, much higher gusts. The water as you can see behind me has been relentlessly pounding the shoreline."
[Update 9:00 a.m. Sunday] The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority says it has shut down all modes of transit.  MTBA website says shutdown will continue for the remainder of Sunday and Sunday night.
[Update 8:59 a.m. Sunday] CNN's Soledad O'Brien reports that in lower Manhattan "tons of water" from the Hudson River has made it's way into the streets near the West Side Highway.
“It is now flowing into the jogging paths," she reported. "We haven't gotten the brunt of the Hurricane yet."
Water pours in from the Hudson River into lower Manhattan on Sunday
O'Brien said there are some concerns at apartment buildings in Zone A in Manhattan where flooding is pouring into some buildings. There are concerns elevators and power will go down soon and residents of the meatpacking district will be stuck.
[Update 8:57 a.m. Sunday] The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has now closed the north tube of the Holland Tunnel due to flooding, according to a statement.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted the following updates:
Andrew Cuomo @NYGovCuomo :P OWER OUTAGES: 5,083 National Grid customers in its Eastern division are w/o power #IRENE
 @NYGovCuomo: OWEROUTAGES: 42,311 NYSEG customers w/o power – mainly in Brewster & Mechanicville. 26,862 in Orange & Rockland. 21,312 in Central Hudson
@NYGovCuomo:North Tube of the Holland Tunnel (NY to NJ direction) is closed due to flooding. Vehicles will be diverted to the Lincoln Tunnel #Irene
[Update 8:34 a.m. Sunday] The Hudson River is causing some flooding in the West Village, CNN's Phil Han reported. Han said part of 10th Avenue has been blocked off and two cars just got stuck in the water.
The river is also covering parts of the pier and the river is breaching the area near the New York Department of Sanitation.
[Update 8:20 a.m. Sunday] CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Senior Producer Rose Arce report the Hudson River has overflowed its banks in lower Manhattan with flooding occurring as far as a block inland in the city's meat packing district.
[Update 8:02 a.m. Sunday]Irene remains a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. ET advisory Sunday.
It is "forecast to weaken and become a post-tropical cyclone by tonight or early Monday," the NHC said.
On the forecast track, the center of the storm will move near New York City Sunday morning and move inland over southern New England by Sunday afternoon, then move into eastern Canada Sunday night, the National Hurricane Center said.
[Update 8:00 a.m. Sunday] The East River in New York City is topping the edge of its barrier wall, CNN's Ali Velshi reports from river overlook. Rob Marciano in Long Beach, New York, screams to report over massive surf and high winds. The life guard building appears to have been ripped off its foundation. The streets of Long Beach are flooding.  Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said tropical force winds will continue throughout the area for the next two hours.
By Saturday evening, the storm had already knocked out power in more than a million homes, forced more than a million people off the New Jersey shore alone and caused at least 10 deaths.
Hurricane warnings extend up the coast to Cape Cod in Massachusetts, with tropical storm warnings issued for parts of coastal Canada.
Irene weakened somewhat since coming ashore early Saturday near Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Five people died as a result of the storm in North Carolina, and three were killed in Virginia due to falling trees, emergency officials said. In addition, a 55-year-old male surfer died around noon in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

[Update 5:50 a.m. Sunday] Hurricane Irene makes second landfall near Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey, at approximately 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Irene's intensity was estimated at 75 mph.
[Update 5:11 a.m. Sunday] Nearly 3 million customers across the East Coast are without power as Hurricane Irene churns northeast. Utility customers warned that the numbers are expected to go up as the storm swirls north.
[Update 5:06 a.m. Sunday] The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for New York's Nassau and Suffolk counties until 5:15 a.m.
[Update 4:40 a.m. Sunday] Ocean City, Maryland, appears to have endured Hurricane Irene without sustaining major damage, CNN's Jeanne Meserve said early Sunday. While there is some standing water, there is no major flooding, she said.
[Update 3:59 a.m. Sunday]About 743,000 customers in Maryland are without power due to storm conditions, according to a spokeswoman for the state's Emergency Management Agency. About 31,000 customers in Washington, D.C. are without power, Pepco said.
[Update 3:16 a.m. Sunday] A nuclear power reactor automatically went offline late Saturday in Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, due to strong wind gusts from Hurricane Irene, said Mark Sullivan, spokesman for the Constellation Energy Nuclear Group said.
"The facility is safe; there is no impact to employees or our neighbors, Sullivan said. "There is no threat."
[Update 2:22 a.m. Sunday] Authorities are no longer sending vehicles to respond to 911 calls in Ocean City, Maryland, because of high winds. By 2 a.m., the city had received 11 inches of rain.
[Update 2:04 a.m. Sunday] Irene remains a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph and gusts to 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. advisory. Storm is about 15 miles south-southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, and about 195 miles south-southwest of New York City.
[Update 1:52 a.m. Sunday] Utilities in Maryland, Virginia and Washington report outages affecting 623,590 customers

[Update 1:38 a.m. Sunday] All service is now suspended on the Staten Island Ferry, according to New York officials.

[Update 1:20 a.m. Sunday] A Queenstown, Maryland, woman died Saturday after a large tree knocked a chimney through the roof of her home, crushing her, according to Kevin Aftung, the chief of emergency services for Queen Anne's County.
[Update 12:47 a.m. Sunday] Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., reported damage late Saturday at the construction site for its new science center, according to communications officer Maggie Moore.
[Update 12:23 a.m. Sunday] Officials in Maryland warned of potential failure of the St. Mary's Lake Dam due to heavy rains from Hurricane Irene. Government officials warn the storm could cause significant flooding that could threaten people, homes and roads downstream from the dam.

[Update 12:23 a.m. Sunday] Ocean City, Maryland, received 8 inches of rainfall by early Sunday and was experiencing minor flooding, said Bob Rhode, operations chief of the city's Emergency Management.
[Midnight] Authorities shut down the Port of New York and the Port for Long Island Sound late Saturday as Hurricane Irene closed in on the New York City area. Also, the Palisades Interstate Parkway entrance to the George Washington Bridge in New York City has been closed due to weather conditions, according to a statement from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
[Update 11:40 p.m. Saturday] U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.  The declaration frees federal funds to help in the recovery effort, according to the White House.
[Update 11:20 p.m. Saturday] The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority closed down late Saturday because of a tornado warning in Philadelphia, according to SEPTA representative Jerri Williams.
[Update 11:05 p.m.] Irene remains a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph and gusts to 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. ET advisory.
[Update 11 p.m.] Storms in Delaware damaged 30-40 homes Saturday night in the town of Lewes, according to Ed Schaeffer, a fire department spokesman.  Five of them were damaged severely. There were no injuries, he said.
A tornado watch remains in effect until 5 a.m. Sunday.
[Update 10:47 p.m. Saturday] The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning until 11 p.m. ET for the city of Philadelphia, including east-central Chester County, northeastern Delaware County, central Philadelphia County and southeastern Montgomery County.
[Update 10:37 p.m. Saturday] New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, addressing reporters Saturday night, said residents should prepare to hunker down as Hurricane Irene approached. "The storm is finally hitting New York City," he said.
“The time for evacuation is over. Everyone should go inside and stay inside," Bloomberg  said. "The city has taken exhaustive steps to prepare for whatever comes our way.”
[Update 10:26 p.m. Saturday] The National Weather Service has issued tornado watches - extending through 5 a.m. Sunday - for parts of southern Delaware, eastern New Jersey, southeastern New York and Long Island and southwestern Connecticut.
[Update 9:52 p.m. Saturday] A tornado touched down in Lewes, Delaware, damaging at least 17 homes, the governor said Saturday night.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, Governor Jack Markell told CNN affiliate KYW. He wouldn't have official damage figures until Sunday morning, he said.
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