Hurricane Irene: No one ‘dodged a bullet’
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‘People are saying they’ve dodged a bullet ... [but] people have lost lives. I don’t think you can say we dodged a bullet.’
That was Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on Sunday after Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm and apparently produced less destruction than many had feared.
Authorities continue to caution that the storm is still not over. It’s pounding New England with heavy rains and winds. And downed trees and power lines as well as power outages are still endangering lives.
Here’s a look at where some of the damage stands:
- It appears the storm claimed at least 15 lives, but that number is far from final. Among those killed: An 11-year-old Virginia boy crushed when a tree fell on his home. The tally on injuries is not yet known. A New Jersey firefighter remains in critical condition after a rescue effort.
- Officials said it will take time to get a handle on damage costs but some early estimates put the total at $7 billion to $20 billion.
- Millions of residents remain without electricity up and down the East Coast. It is expected to take days -- possibly more than a week -- to restore all the power. In some Connecticut towns, 90% to 100% of customers were without power.
- Thousands of commuters remain stranded after some airports canceled all flights. The affected routes are just beginning to get back online with some flights resuming out of Washington, D.C. Operators of other modes of transportation in the Northeast -- train, bus and subway service -- were grappling to ramp up once more. New York City’s subways remained shuttered, however, until further notice, raising the possibility of a nightmare Monday morning commute.
- Widespread flooding continues to be a problem, as does the rain. Irene is dumping up to a dozen inches on the Northeast, a region that also already seen an unseasonably wet year so far. Oversaturated ground will mean the downing of more trees and power lines -- and the potential for more deaths.
‘We encourage you to stay off the roads so much as possible,’ U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. ‘We still have a ways to go with Irene.’
Thousands of residents who were evacuated along the East Coast, however, are already making their way back home.
-- Rene Lynch