Irene Nears Canada Border After Downgrade to Post-Tropical

Fire department officials attend to a downed power pole
Fire department officials attend to a downed power pole in Princeton, New Jersey, on Aug. 28. Photographer: John McCorry/Bloomberg

Irene, downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone from a hurricane, neared the U.S.-Canada border after killing 18 people, sending rivers to near-record heights and knocking out power to almost 6 million customers in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Irene was 105 miles (165 kilometers) south of Quebec City, Canada, with winds of 50 miles per hour and moving north-northeast at 26 mph, according to an advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center at 11 p.m. Miami time. Irene is expected to move over eastern Canada later today and early tomorrow, the center said.

Irene was a shadow of the storm that roared across the Caribbean with Category 3-strength winds of up to 120 mph and crashed into North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a Category 1 hurricane. It dropped to tropical storm status before making landfall in New York City at about 9 a.m.

At least 18 people died from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, 10 of them in North Carolina and Virginia. People from South Carolina to Maine lost power because of Irene, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability.

“It is still a formidable storm,” said David Stark, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York, outside New York City. “Classifying it now is a little bit difficult. The storm surge in the city was pretty significant. We had the sixth-highest level ever recorded in the Battery” in lower Manhattan.

Evacuees Return

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said residents evacuated from low-lying areas including Coney Island and Battery Park City would be allowed to return home at 3 p.m. His mandatory evacuation order Aug. 26 was the first in the city’s history. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Irene dropped 6.71 inches (17 centimeters) of rain on Central Park, Stark said. Water levels at Battery Park rose to 9.7 feet (3 meters) and there was coastal flooding all along southern Long Island, he said. A 60 mph wind gust was recorded in the park, Stark said.

Irene may cost insurers as much as $2.6 billion to cover U.S. damage, with total economic losses of $7 billion, according to Kinetic Analysis Corp., which predicts the impact of disasters.

Irene’s Cost

Insured losses in North Carolina and South Carolina are expected to range from $200 million to $400 Million, according to risk-modeling company Eqecat Inc. in Oakland, California. Irene may have caused between $500 million and $1.1 billion in damage to the Bahamas, according to estimates from AIR Worldwide in Boston.

The U.S. has suffered $35 billion in losses in nine separate events so far in 2011, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That tied a record for disasters causing more than $1 billion damage in a single year.

Irene struck the Bahamas last week before making landfall in North Carolina yesterday. It made a second U.S. landfall early today along the New Jersey shore and then passed directly over New York about three hours later, according to the hurricane center in Miami.

Tornadoes were reported in Delaware and Virginia, where they damaged homes, according to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

High Water

Rivers and creeks throughout the Northeast are rising, according to weather service river gauges.

The Hoosic River near Williamstown, Massachusetts, rose 7.7 feet in 9 hours, reaching almost 4.6 feet above flood stage by midday. The Williams River near Rockingham, Vermont, was at 16.34 feet at 3:45 p.m., or 6.36 feet above its previous high crest in March 1993, according to the weather service. The Connecticut River in Montague, Massachusetts, rose 16.3 feet in eight hours today to reach flood stage there.

Esopus Creek in Cold Brook, New York, rose 17.74 feet in 12 hours to set a record crest of 23.34 feet, breaking the mark set in March 1980, according to the weather service. The creek receded and was at 19.41 feet at 4 p.m.

Major roads in Windham County, Vermont, were washed out and a portion of Interstate 91 in Massachusetts was shut because of flooding.

Tropical storm warnings for the U.S. east coast have been discontinued. A warning is still in effect for the south coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the hurricane center said.

In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Jose was 190 miles north-northwest of Bermuda with maximum winds weakening to 40 mph, the center said in a separate advisory. Jose is forecast to deteriorate through Aug. 30.

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