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IRENE’S FLOODS Prove Deadly as Water Continues to Rise – WSJ.com

August 29, 2011

U.S. NEWSAUGUST 30, 2011

Irene’s Floods Prove Deadly as Water Continues to Rise

By JERRY A. DICOLO, CAMERON MCWHIRTER and EMILY STEEL

Associated Press

A lock in Rotterdam, N.Y., overflows with angry, brown water Monday in the wake of Irene. Floodwaters sent a metal barge crashing into the gates here.

Hurricane Irene never packed the catastrophic winds of more famous tropical storms, but by the time its remnants finally blew into Canada Monday, it had proved to be a slow killer, leaving behind a vast swath of shattered communities and dozens of fatalities.

After churning up the Eastern seaboard and then pounding the suburbs of New York City, where the storm made landfall as a weakening hurricane Sunday morning, Irene unleashed torrential rains in Vermont. Rivers overflowed their banks, washed out roads and bridges in every county of the state and isolated thousands of residents. Three people were known to have died in floodwaters, and another was missing.

By late Monday, at least 40 deaths had been attributed to the storm, stretching from North Carolina to Vermont. The rising death toll puts Irene among the 30 deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.

More than half a million residents remained without electricity in New Jersey, where river levels continued to rise in some areas. At least 20 communities had no running water or had ordered residents to boil all drinking water. Close to a million people had no power in New York state, and flooding in the Hudson River valley threatened significant new destruction. Hundreds of thousands more residents in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island were also without power. Companies warned customers to be ready for outages lasting up to several weeks, though on Monday some utilities in North Carolina and New Jersey signaled they could deal with the majority of the outages by next weekend.

The economic damage—ranging from wrecked roads to lost hotel bookings—could hit $12 billion or more, according to initial estimates from economists and insurance industry officials.

Throughout the day Monday, as frustrated residents clamored for restoration of electricity and rail service in some areas, new crises continued to develop.

An entire community in the northern Catskills, tiny Prattsville in Greene County, was swept away, officials said. “It’s been leveled. All you see is foundations popping out of the floor. The rest is gone,” said Greene County’s administrator, Shaun Groden. On Monday, a police helicopter airlifted 21 people in nearby Jewett. Dozens of more people were still stuck in their homes with dwindling food.

In Green Island, N.Y., wedged between the floodwaters of the Hudson River and a swollen tributary of the Mohawk River, members of the community rallied to fight back the rising waters. A grab-bag of village workers and volunteers placed sandbags around the homes most at risk. A plea for help on Facebook brought about 100 volunteers out Sunday night to defend the village’s only school.

As of Monday afternoon, water was lapping up against the school, but had not seeped into the building. “School kids, their parents, everybody just sandbagging in the pouring rain” said Sean Ward, who oversees the village’s emergency response. “They were doing what was best for their community.”

Early estimates suggest Hurricane Irene caused somewhere around $8 billion in damages and business interruptions, and some economists believe the overall economic toll could reach $16 billion. Conor Dougherty has the latest on The News Hub.

In Wilmington, Vt., a picturesque village of about 2,300 people, Joe Specht had just finished putting a new coat of bright yellow paint on his art gallery when Irene’s rains began. The torrent that poured for hours all day Sunday lifted the building off its foundation and smashed it to pieces against a telephone pole. The pieces floated into a reservoir. By Monday, the entire building was gone.

“No one could possibly anticipate that the scale of the flood was going to be what it was,” said the 60-year-old co-owner of the Ann Coleman Gallery, standing in thick mud and debris on Main Street near his destroyed business.

via Irene’s Floods Prove Deadly as Water Continues to Rise – WSJ.com.

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