Turned out my entire neighborhood was in the storm surge zone, so I decamped across the bridge to a New Jersey hotel. (I figured it was cheaper than a new car.) All night, I was glued to the teevee as they announced one tornado warning after another, even in the city of Philadelphia. In Lewes, Delaware, at least 15 homes were damaged by a tornado.
Now, New York and New England, it's your turn:
Hurricane Irene, a ferocious and slow-moving storm, smashed into North Carolina on Saturday morning, then slowly swirled its way up the Eastern Seaboard, flooding low-lying areas, knocking out power to as many as 1 million customers and forcing the densely populated regions of Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City to take unprecedented steps as they braced for impact.
At least eight people are known to have died as a result of the storm in North Carolina, Virginia and Florida.
Irene is expected to continue its northward path through New England before weakening early Sunday morning. The youngest victim, an 11-year-old boy, was killed when a tree crashed through his apartment building in Newport News, Va.
“I've never even heard of a hurricane around here,” said Peter Watts, working at the Vitamin Shoppe in downtown Philadelphia. “Or an earthquake,” he said, referring to Tuesday’s 5.8-magnitude temblor that shook the East Coast.
Storm-related disruptions of daily life were immense. About 10,000 commercial airline flights were canceled, and more than 2 million people were ordered evacuated from areas inundated by the surging floodwaters that accompanied the 450-mile-wide hurricane's northward path at 16 mph.
Evacuation orders affected people in Staten Island and Battery Park in New York City, the Jersey Shore, all coastal areas of Delaware, plus parts of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.
“Staying behind is dangerous, staying behind is foolish and it's against the law,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took to television to plead with about 600 seniors who refused to leave their Atlantic City high-rises. He said he feared they would be injured or worse if the hurricane’s expected 80 mph winds shattered their windows.
“You’re correct that I cannot make you leave your home and I certainly do not intend to place you under arrest to get you to leave,” Christie said. “But if you stay where you are, you’re putting yourself in danger as well as your loved ones.”
In New York City, the country’s largest subway system ground to a halt as officials took precautions against flooding. In an effort to minimize flying debris in the face of brutal, sustained winds, city sanitation workers turned over 25,000 trash cans.