You can almost hear the sign of relief on the East Coast: serious threats remain but predictions that Hurricane Irene would be a hurricane for the history books have not materialized as Hurricane Irene has become a topical storm:
The streets of Manhattan began flooding Sunday morning as Irene lashed New York City with wind gusts and torrential rains.
Even as Irene weakened to a tropical storm, authorities in the region warned that its impact was not waning.
“Do not leave your homes. … It is still not safe,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Sunday morning. “We’ve got flooding everywhere and flash flooding in all different parts of the state.”
Streets in downtown Millburn, New Jersey, were largely underwater.
“It’s crazy. … The water is moving between buildings, up, down, all sorts of different directions,” Rich Graessle told CNN’s iReport.
The newly weakened Tropical Storm Irene banged into the edge of New York on Sunday,
unleashing rain and wind on a city girded for the worst. Salty floodwater surged toward lower Manhattan, threatening Wall Street and the heart of the world financial network with devastating damage.
The storm pushed a 3 1/2-foot surge of water into New York Harbor, and forecasters said the peak could be twice as tall later in the morning.
The National Hurricane Center said at mid-morning that Irene’s winds had fallen to 65 mph, below the 74 mph dividing line between a hurricane and tropical storm. The system was still massive and powerful, forming a figure six that covered the Northeast. It made landfall at Coney Island and was moving at 25 mph, twice as fast as the day before.
All told, about 2.5 million people have been ordered to leave up and down the East Coast, and 3 million were without power. Irene threatened 65 million people in the region, estimated as the largest number of Americans ever affected by a single storm.
But it has left a path of destruction in its short life:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.