Saturday, 27 August 2011

Hurricane Irene surges ashore on track to New York

Updated at: 0200 PST, Sunday, August 28, 2011
Hurricane Irene surges ashore on track to New York

NEW YORK: Hurricane Irene clobbered the US east coast Saturday, killing at least three people and paralyzing air traffic before barreling north on course for a rare direct hit on New York City.

Packing winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) an hour, Irene was a weakened but still massive category one storm when it made landfall at 8:00 am (1200 GMT) at Cape Lookout, North Carolina, near a chain of barrier islands.

Spiraling north, the storm was due overnight to start pounding metropolitan New York City and New Jersey, where well over a million people have been evacuated following dire warnings of storm surges and flooding.

New York was to shut down area airports -- including John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia -- at 10:00pm (0200 GMT), snarling air traffic after the cancellation of hundreds of flights earlier in the day.

In North Carolina, sea water surged through beach communities, ripping out wooden piers and flooding vacation homes, as torrential rains and high winds left at least 800,000 people without power there and in neighboring Virginia.

In Newport News, Virginia a tree fell on an apartment complex, crushing an 11-year-old boy who was inside but sparing his mother, according to a city official.

In North Carolina a man died of a heart attack while boarding up his windows, another died when his car hydroplaned off the road, and a third man went missing after falling or being pushed into a river, officials said.

Governors and mayors in several states have issued evacuation orders and repeatedly warned that Irene is still a full-fledged hurricane, and could unleash deadly storm surges, tornadoes and flooding.

Some 65 million people live in the urban corridor from Washington north to Boston, and experts have said the devastation could cost billions of dollars.

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