Though downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane as it made landfall in North Carolina and traveled north into New England, Irene nevertheless created a wide path of destruction as it moved up the U.S. East Coast leaving some 21 dead, 3 million without power and an estimated $10 billion in damage in its wake – along with 260 roads flooded out in Vermont alone.
The storm also did not hit New York City as hard as many feared, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“The good news is the worst is over, and we will soon move to restore and return mode,” he said during a press conference yesterday at One Police Plaza. “The tides were heading towards low tide, and as you all know the backside of a low pressure area comes up the east coast where winds will force the waters away from the coast, so the dangers of additional flooding have been eliminated, and the existing flooding should start to go down.”
Though he stressed that there are “very serious consequences” resulting from Irene across the city, including flooding, downed trees, and power outages, the initial damage reports were not as severe as feared.
“We warned residents that their power may go out, or be cut preemptively to avoid damage to the power grid caused by flooding. Thankfully Con Ed did not have to do that, and where they had to cut steam service to some buildings, they think it will be restored by Tuesday,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
However, many roadways across the New England area are and may remain flooded, noted New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner James Simpson in a statement, as although the storm has passed, most major rivers have not yet crested, so flooding will continue to be a significant public safety issue.
“A total of 3,000 workers from NJDOT and sister transportation agencies including NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and South Jersey Transportation Authority are working to clear debris and create safe detours for motorists around floodwaters and other obstructions,” he noted. “Storm damage is widespread, so we encourage residents to limit travel to avoid interfering with our crews, utility crews and contractors as they clear debris from roadways and create detours as needed.”
Simpson added that NJDOT is responding to more than 300 incidents of roadway flooding or debris that is partially or completely obstructing travel.
Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) Shailen Bhatt noted that his state's transportation system appears to have weathered the storm reasonably well, though DelDOT will be contending with flooded roads, utility lines that have come down, loss of power to traffic control devices, fallen trees and debris on roadways, and other various issues.
“We urge the public to remain off the roads as long as possible today, and to use extra caution if they are driving, knowing they may encounter unexpected delays and road hazards,” he pointed out. “DelDOT's crews have already swung into action to assess storm damage and have begun to address high-priority issues on our primary and secondary roadways."
Bhatt stressed that the agency’s first priority is to ensure the major arteries of Delaware’s transportation network become fully operational and that while conditions have improved, motorists are encouraged to stay off the roads, in part because many traffic signals may not be operating due to power loss or damage.
“A number of roads are also still covered by water, and motorists could encounter downed trees, branches or power lines,” he said. “If you encounter water covering a roadway, do not try to drive through it.”