Irene Pounds Coast, Leaves Power Outages and Flooding in Aftermath
Hurricane Irene hit New York City on Sunday morning as a weakened tropical storm after raking the Eastern seaboard from North Carolina to New Jersey. So far, the storm has killed 11 people and left millions without power.
By 9 a.m. Sunday, Irene was packing winds of 65 miles an hour, down from 75 mph earlier in the morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its center was moving over New York City and heading northeast at 26 miles an hour.
Irene was expected to weaken further as it moved through New York, forecasters said. Despite its reduced intensity, the storm is still expected to cause massive flooding and power outages and to bring down thousands of trees.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said about 750,000 homes and businesses were without power across the state. Consolidated Edison Inc. said Sunday morning that there is still a strong possibility that the utility will deliberately shut down power in Lower Manhattan and other areas as officials continue to monitor the storm.
"We're still in the middle of looking at it now," said Alfonso Quiroz, a Con Ed spokesman. "It all really depends on how high the water level gets. The surge is hitting now." He said a deliberate shutdown, if deemed necessary, is helpful because it expedites restoration when the storm ends.
Con Edison currently has 85,000 customers in the region who have lost power because of high winds. Officials expect that number to increase. Restoration could take anywhere from a few days to a week.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration kept open all city bridges spanning the East River throughout the storm, a sign that Hurricane Irene didn't have as significant an impact on New York City as officials initially anticipated.
The only bridges closed were the three spans to the Rockaways in Queens. That happened at 2 a.m. Sunday, officials said. The mayor had ordered the entire Rockaways peninsula to be evacuated by 5 a.m. Saturday, and he estimated on Saturday that 80% of residents there had complied.
NEW YORK |
Stocks in perfect storm of Irene, jobs
(Reuters) - Stocks are setting up for another turbulent week that will begin with a focus, oddly enough, on the weather.
Traders juggling European debt worries and soft economic data are now staring at satellite images, tracking the path of Hurricane Irene, expected to hit New York over the weekend.
The unusually large storm traveled up the U.S. East Coast on Friday, threatening 55 million people, and was expected to cause billions of dollars in property damage.
Major U.S. exchanges are preparing to deal with power outages and flooding, and that could affect trading on Monday.
For now at least, the NYSE and Nasdaq expect to be open for trading as usual on Monday morning. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq repeated on Saturday that, despite the arrival of Hurricane Irene in New York, both expect to conduct a normal trading session on Monday.
The Big Board said a final decision would be made over the weekend, particularly on its trading floor in the low-lying financial district of Manhattan, which could see a storm surge and flooding.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and exchange officials will discuss the storm's impact and plans for opening trading at the start of the week in a conference call on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., according to a source familiar with the plan.
One senior trader at a proprietary trading firm in New York said Friday that Hurricane Irene had destroyed any chance of a rally that had looked likely, given the extent of short positions that had been building in equity markets.
"If this hurricane is a disaster, my guess is we are going to be down 30-40 handles on Monday," he said.
Property insurers Allstate (ALL.N) and Travelers (TRV.N) hit two-year intraday lows on Friday, partly on worries over claims due to the hurricane.
"We intend to be open, but Mother Nature may have other plans," said Lou Pastina, executive vice president of NYSE operations.
After that, the focus may shift from the Federal Reserve's economic outlook to the August payrolls report on Friday.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, in a much anticipated speech to central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, said most of the burden for ensuring a solid foundation for long-term growth lay at the feet of the White House and the U.S. Congress.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to detail plans to create jobs after he returns from vacation the week after next. Investors will have a few days to position themselves ahead of Obama's speech, with the key payrolls report for August due Friday.
"This was clearly a punt from Bernanke to Obama, who will announce a jobs initiative soon," said Lance Roberts, CEO of Streettalk Advisors, an investment management firm in Houston. "The market thinks we may now get stimulus from the government."
THE WHITE KNIGHT: TRICHET?
Hurricane Irene snarls New York highways, tunnels, sidewalks
Although the massive New York transit system -- subways, buses and commuter trains -- was shut down in anticipation of the storm, the metropolitan area was still open if you were willing to get behind a wheel or stroll a sidewalk.
Until this morning.
As Hurricane Irene roars through the area, flooding and downed trees are shutting down parts of major roads, highways, tunnels and bridges ringing New York City and making some sidewalks impassable.
On the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, the flooding was serious enough for the mayor of Hoboken to order the evacuation of all residents living in ground-floor apartments. On the Manhattan side, sea water is sloshing across sidewalks across Lower Manhattan from Battery Park City to the South Street Seaport area.
The FDR Highway along the eastern side of Manhattan is shut down in both directions near Houston Street because of a fallen tree, while the West Side Highway is blocked around Harlem due to flooding. The New Jersey-bound Holland Tunnel is closed due to flooding,
Not that New Yorkers are jumping in their cars to go anywhere right now.
(Who could tear themselves away from television after watching a reporter waist deep in water on Eastern Long Island surrounded by floating mailboxes or seeing another reporter get nearly knocked over by a wave on the New Jersey beach and then scream "Get out of here! Get out of here!" and hurling her microphone toward her crew?)
New York Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway told NBC News shortly after 9 a.m. that although things may be clearing up a bit in the city — the rain and wind have lightened a bit and the skies are brightening— “that could be deceptive.”
“We are in the most intense part of the storm,” Holloway said. “Stay indoors … the dangers of winds, things blowing off balconies is still extremely high."