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Irene leaves trail of damage

About 4 million people without power, downed trees block many roads, thousands in shelters

BALTIMORE | August 28, 2011

As Tropical Storm Irene took its soaking rains and gusty winds into Upper New York State and New England Sunday afternoon, residents from North Carolina to New Jersey began a massive cleanup.

At least 4 million customers were without power, trees blocked many roads, and many communities were coping with various stages of flooding.

Hurricane Irene had been downgraded to tropical storm status after making a second landfall early Sunday in New Jersey. It later moved into the ocean again, before finally coming inland in New York. It first came ashore in North Carolina Saturday.

The storm was moving north-northeast at 26 mph, bringing heavy rain and pounding surf, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in its 2 p.m. EDT advisory.

A storm surge of 4 to 8 feet was expected to threaten coastal areas of New York's Long Island as well as parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the center said. The storm was on course to reach eastern Canada Sunday night.

"Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large, destructive and life-threatening waves," the center said. "Higher than normal astronomical tides are occurring this weekend."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," warned residents of dangers that persist even after the storm has moved on.

"We have downed power wires all over the place. We have flooding of streets," Christie said. "Everyone will be fine if we stay in our homes, we let the storm pass, and then we wait to hear an assessment for people when they can go back out."

"Let the local officials give you that all clear," Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said on the program. "And if we want the power back on quick, stay off the roads, let the power crews get out there and get to work. They don't need you out there sight-seeing. Stay home unless it's urgent, and don't go back until the local officials tell you it's OK."

Gov. Bob McDonnell said Irene caused the second-largest power outage in Virginia history, leaving 2 million people without power.

At least 15 people have been killed from Florida north into other states by hurricane-associated events, CNN said.

The National Weather Service was investigating numerous reports of tornadoes in North Carolina, Virgina and Delaware where Irene made landfall Saturday morning before moving back over the Atlantic Ocean.

New York City's entire transit system was shut down as a precautionary measure Saturday for the first time ever, and streets were virtually deserted as the winds and rains began, The New York Times reported.

Nearly 400,000 people in New York followed Mayor Michael Bloomberg's evacuation order and warning of flooding and power outages, the Times said.

Even so, the Times said emergency personnel were called to evacuate "several dozens" of people whose homes had flooded in Staten Island.

In Boston, officials announced Saturday night the entire transit system was shutting down as a precautionary measure, The Boston Globe said.

-- Writers for United Press International contributed to this story. All rights reserved.

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