(Corrects governor’s name to McDonnell from McDonald in Virginia section in story published Aug. 28. For more on the hurricane, EXT5 <GO>.)
Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Irene killed at least 18 people from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, caused an estimated $3 billion in damage and cut electric power to more than 4 million homes and businesses across the eastern U.S.
The deaths were concentrated in Virginia and North Carolina, where at least 10 people were killed. Virginia also sustained the second-largest power outage in state history. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. home and auto insurer, reported about 1,600 homeowners claims and almost 500 auto insurance claims in North Carolina and Virginia as of 3:00 p.m. local time.
The Bloomington, Illinois insurer is hearing reports of downed trees, siding and roofing materials blown off houses, power outages and “a lot of claims for loss of refrigerated food,” said Jon Hannah, a State Farm spokesman.
The storm’s cost to insurers may have fallen to $3 billion in the U.S. as the storm weakened on its path toward New England, according to Kinetic Analysis Corp., a firm that predicts the effects of disasters. An earlier estimate was for insured losses of as much as $14 billion. Federal officials are still assessing damage and haven’t released a value on the damage yet, said Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
State Farm reported 360 homeowners’ claims and about 60 auto-related claims in the New York metropolitan area as of 3:00 p.m. local time. The insurer reported 700 homeowners’ claims and 60 auto claims in New Jersey and 400 homeowners’ claims and 50 auto claims in Pennsylvania. Hannah didn’t have data for Maryland as of 3:00 p.m., but said that the state is expected to be one of the hardest hit.
“The Maryland numbers, from what I know, are going up exponentially,” he said.
President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for 11 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. A federal declaration of emergency allows states to get federal money and support responding to damage, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website. Puerto Rico was the only area declared a “major disaster” by the agency, a level above an emergency declaration.
The following is a state-by-state assessment of the storm’s impact:
One fatality has been reported, after an unidentified senior citizen died in a house fire caused by a falling tree limb in the town of Prospect, according to Lieutenant P.J. Conway, a fire department spokesman.
Connecticut Light & Power, the electrical utility serving most of the state, reported that 486,000 customers had lost power, surpassing the outage record set during Hurricane Gloria in 1985.
A tornado touched down Aug. 27 near Lewes, at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, Cathy Rossi, a spokeswoman for Governor Jack Markell, said in an interview today. The twister tore the roof off a house, but no one was injured, Rossi said.
Other damage came from wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour, which sent trees crashing onto cars and homes in the Wilmington suburb of Arden.
Across the state, 39,000 people lost electricity, with the majority concentrated in New Castle County, Bridget Shelton, a spokeswoman for Delmarva Power, a unit of Pepco Holdings Inc., said in a telephone interview. “It could have been a lot worse,” Shelton said. “We’re not completely out of the woods yet, but things are looking better.”
District of Columbia
In Washington, the damage was limited to downed trees, strewn debris and power outages that affected about 28,000 district residents, said Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent Gray.
“There were not many injuries, a few fires. We had a shelter open that eight people used,” McCoy said. “We came out of it pretty good.”
A total of 183,000 customers were without power in northern Virginia, southern Maryland and the District of Columbia at mid-day today, according to the website of Pepco, the utility servicing the area.
Two men were killed in rough surf related to the storm, which didn’t strike the state directly, said Florida Division of Emergency Management spokesman William Booher. The agency hadn’t concluded whether the deaths were directly caused by the hurricane. Booher said in a phone call Sunday afternoon that the decision on how to attribute the deaths would likely be made Monday.
The bulk of the storm had yet to hit the northern-most state on the U.S. East Coast as of 12:30 p.m. local time, Lynette Miller, a spokeswoman for the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said in a telephone interview. She said about 15,000 residents were without power.
A woman was killed in Queen Anne’s County after a tree fell on a house, collapsing the chimney, said Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the state emergency management agency. At least 822,000 people were without power, Banks said in a phone interview.
Governor Martin O’Malley said St. Mary’s County on the Chesapeake Bay was hard hit by downed trees and power lines, and about 200 roads were closed. There was little damage in Ocean City, a vacation spot where tens of thousands were evacuated before the storm. “The beach looks good in Ocean City,” O’Malley said in a video earlier today. “There has not been much damage to the boardwalk to speak of.”
In Massachusetts, at least 327,360 of the utility NSTAR’s 1.1 million customers had lost power as of 1 p.m. today, and power on the island of Martha’s Vineyard was completely cut at one point, said Scott McLeod, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. A high tide, coupled with the storm surge, was poised to flood the Buzzard’s Bay region in southeastern Massachusetts.
The body of 20-year-old Celena Sylvestri, of Quinton, was recovered from a gray Honda Accord in floodwaters in Pilesgrove, 35 miles (56 kilometers) southeast of Philadelphia, said Sergeant Brian Polite, a spokesman for the state police. A diver found the woman in the submerged car about 150 feet off of Route 40 at 9:30 a.m. local time, eight hours after she had phoned her boyfriend and police to report she was “up to her neck” in water, Polite said at a news conference.
While looking for Sylvestri, emergency crews rescued another stranded motorist, James Troy, 68, of Cape May, Polite said.
A half-million people were without power and 15,000 were in 45 shelters, Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the state police, said at a news conference in West Trenton. Governor Chris Christie, appearing on morning news programs, said widespread flooding along the Atlantic coast and inland was expected to worsen. Christie was scheduled to speak to media again at 6:30 p.m.
New York City was spared severe damage, and the worst of the storm had passed as of about 10 a.m. local time Sunday. Across the state, 370,000 people were without power as of 10:30 a.m., Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office said.
Long Island saw at least 471,000 people lose power, and the outages caused “several” hospitals to lose power, Michael Hervey, chief operating officer of Long Island Power Authority, said on a conference call with reporters.
A man was killed in Spring Valley after being electrocuted by power wires that had gone down in a flooded street, the Washington Post reported. The man went into the street to try and save a child, who was also injured, the Post said, citing the Rockland County Emergency Operations Center.
In Manhattan, there was flooding in Battery Park and elsewhere. “We have dozens of crews that are out dealing with flooding conditions,” said Cas Holloway, New York City’s deputy mayor for operations in a WCBS television interview.
At least six people were killed in the state, including one man who suffered a heart attack putting up plywood before the storm, Ernie Seneca, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said in a telephone interview from Raleigh.
Interstate 95, the main north-south highway along the East Coast, was closed in at least one location. North Carolina Highway 12 was washed out in several places. The road is the main artery to the Outer Banks, the thin barrier islands that are home to vacation communities like Duck and Nags Head.
Three deaths have been attributed to the storm. A 58-year-old man was killed in East Hanover Township by a falling tree that crushed him in his tent, the Associated Press reported, citing state police. Two other men were killed in the storm, one by a falling tree and another whose car went off the road and struck a tree, the AP reported.
In Philadelphia, seven buildings collapsed overnight and a roof was torn off a six-story apartment building in the Center City neighborhood, Mark McDonald, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, said in a phone interview. Trees were down across the city, and the Schuylkill River was overflowing its banks and was expected to crest at 15 feet above normal level at 2 p.m. local time. The highest recorded level for the river was 17.5 feet in 1869, McDonald said in a phone interview.
“Between flooding and trees down, there is what you might call a mess,” McDonald said.
Power losses were widespread across the southeastern part of the state, with 400,000 people without electricity as of 9 a.m. PECO Energy, the electric utility for the region, has brought in 4,000 workers from as far as Florida to handle repairs from downed trees, Karen Muldoon Geus, a spokeswoman for PECO Energy, said in a telephone interview.
A 62-year-old woman was killed as she tried to cross a river in her car and was swept away, Melina Simeonides, a spokeswoman for the commonwealth’s emergency management agency, said in a phone interview. As of 9:45 a.m. local time, 21,800 people had lost power, about 2 percent of the total households, she said.
The storm caused the second-largest power outage in state history as 2.5 million people were without electricity at one point, said Laura Southard, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Along with the outages, four people were killed by falling trees, said Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell.
Dominion Resources Inc., which provides electricity to residents of Virginia and North Carolina, said in a statement today that it won’t be able to offer repair-time estimates until noon local time tomorrow for the 1.2 million customers who lost power in that region.
It will take up to several days to restore power, McDonnell told reporters on a conference call. While the damage is still being tallied, he said the impact was less than feared. “We prepared for the worst, but we fared better than expected,” he said.
Cat Island, a narrow strip about 300 miles southeast of Miami, took the brunt of the storm, the Associated Press said in a report. With communications down across the islands, officials were still compiling information about the damage there, according to the AP.
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