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Ferocious Hurricane Irene shuts down NY City

08-29-2011 08:21 BJT

NEW YORK - Hurricane Irene battered New York with ferocious winds and driving rain on Sunday, shutting down the US financial capital and most populous city, halting mass transit and causing massive power blackouts as it churned slowly northward along the eastern seaboard.

The surf from Hurricane Irene crashes into the pier at Ocean City, Maryland, August 27,
2011. Irene, packing winds of near 80 miles per hour, was a Category 1 hurricane on the
five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale and was churning north-northeast at 16 mph, the US
National Hurricane Center said. [Photo/Agencies]

New York City's normally bustling streets were eerily quiet after authorities ordered tens of thousands of residents to evacuate low-lying areas and shut down its subways, airports and buses.

Those who had to travel were left trying to flag down yellow taxis that patrolled largely deserted streets.

Irene, still a menacing 480-mile (780-km)-wide hurricane, was enveloping towns and cities in the northeast, hugging the Atlantic coast and threatening floods and surging tides.

From the Carolinas to Maine, tens of millions of people were in the path of Irene, which howled ashore in North Carolina on Saturday, dumping torrential rain, felling trees and knocking out power.

"The edge of the hurricane has finally got upon us," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the more than eight million people who live in New York as he warned that tropical storm-force winds would hit the city.

Tourists walk through Times Square as Hurricane Irene arrives in New York, August 27, 2011.
Hurricane Irene closed in on New York on Saturday, shutting down the city, and millions of
Americans on the East Coast hunkered down as the giant storm halted transport and caused
massive power blackouts. [Photo/Agencies]

Times Square, often called the crossroads of the world, was sparsely populated, mostly with visitors, as Irene rolled into the city with full force.

Broadway shows were canceled, coffee was hard to come by with Starbucks stores closed and burgers and fries were in short supply as McDonald's outlets were shut.

"We just came to see how few people are in Times Square and then we're going back," said Cheryl Gibson, who was vacationing in the city.

Bloomberg warned New Yorkers Irene was a life-threatening storm and urged them to stay indoors to avoid flying debris, flooding or the risk of being electrocuted by downed power lines. "It is dangerous out there," he said, but added later:

"New York is the greatest city in the world and we will weather this storm."

In midtown Manhattan, there was a substantial police presence on the streets but most people heeded Bloomberg's warning to stay inside.

New York City's Office of Emergency Management said there was a tornado warning for the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and urged people to seek shelter.

Television reports said local airports had already recorded winds of over 60 miles per hour (96 kph) and they had not yet reached their expected full strength.

About 370,000 city residents were ordered to leave their homes in low-lying areas, many of them in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.


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