News / USA

Seven Dead as Hurricane Irene Churns Up US East Coast

Powerful storm pummels eastern US with heavy rains, strong winds, leaving 1.5 million without power

People stand at the end of a street looking at a stormy Atlantic Ocean as Hurricane Irene arrives, in Cape May, New Jersey, August 27, 2011
People stand at the end of a street looking at a stormy Atlantic Ocean as Hurricane Irene arrives, in Cape May, New Jersey, August 27, 2011


Alex Villarreal

Hurricane Irene continues to pound the U.S. East Coast with heavy rains and strong winds, leaving at least seven people dead in its wake and paralyzing ground and air traffic.

New York started feeling the effects of the hurricane Saturday shortly before midnight, with winds increasing early Sunday.  Forecasters say Irene will move into southern New England in the northeastern U.S. by Sunday afternoon before reaching Canada Sunday night.

Irene blasted ashore in North Carolina early Saturday, flooding streets and toppling trees with sustained winds of 140 kilometer per hour.  The storm later moved into the Washington area, which continues to be hit with strong winds, heavy rain, localized flooding and falling trees.

More than 1.5 million homes and businesses are without power in the eastern U.S, with at least seven people killed.  Tens of millions of people are in the path of the storm, which is passing through some of the country's most densely populated areas, with winds of 130 kilometers per hour.  Tornadoes spurned by the hurrican destroyed homes in Delaware and Virginia.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the massive storm system is expected to continue moving north-northeast at about 24 kilometers per hour.

American Red Cross spokesperson Kate Meier is in North Carolina, and told VOA that even away from the coast, conditions are worrying.

"When I was driving to the shelter, a tree branch hit the windshield of my car, which was terrifying. Fortunately everything was okay, and that's what we're seeing here is some downed branches, but hopefully not a lot of damage in this immediate area. But knowing that I'm 150 miles [241 kilometers] inland and that it's that much worse on the coast is pretty frightening," said Meier.

Along with organizations like the Red Cross, federal, state and local authorities have mobilized resources to confront the storm, which is on track to move up the U.S. East Coast.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said officials anticipate heavy rain, flooding and significant power outages throughout the region. There also is a threat of tornadoes.

"Irene remains a large and dangerous storm. People need to take it seriously. People need to be prepared," she said.

Top emergency coordinators in Washington also got a visit Saturday from President Barack Obama.

"This is still obviously going to be a touch-and-go situation for a lot of communities," said the president.

Already there have been large-scale evacuations and thousands of flight cancellations.

In New York City, the entire public transit system, including subway trains and buses, shut down Saturday for the first time ever. Red Cross spokesman Steve Bayer is on New York's Long Island, where he said the organization is prepared with shelters that can care for thousands of people.

"We have registered nurses, and in some cases, even doctors. And we have a lot of mental health professionals that come to us, volunteer their time to work in our shelters, because it is a pretty heavy load for people who have left their house. They don't know where their animals are," said Bayer.

The Red Cross said its response to Irene could be one of the largest it has undertaken in recent memory.

The organization is responding in more than a dozen states, and said it could take weeks, even months, to be able to fully address the disaster.

National Hurricane Center forecaster Todd Kimberlain said the problem with Irene is its path.

"It's dangerous in the sense that this part of the country is not used to receiving many hurricane strikes. In fact, New England has not received a hurricane strike in 20 years. [In] the mid-Atlantic states, the last hurricane was Isabel in 2003, so this is a significant weather system for this part of the country," he said.

Kimberlain also said Irene is not the strongest hurricane, and nowhere close to 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina, but he says it is still capable of causing damage.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs