Irene becomes post-tropical near the US border

03:59, Aug 29 2011
Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Hurricane Irene.
Hurricane Irene
A shopper in Rockaway Beach, New York, walks down empty aisles in search of supplies.
Coney Island Hospital
Coney Island Hospital is evacuated before Hurricane Irene hits New York City.
Hurricane Irene
A beachgoer gets caught up in the storm as Hurricane Irene begins to batter Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.
Michael Bloomberg
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of 300,000 people living in the city's low lying areas.
Coney Island
Coney Island, famed for its amusement park, starts to empty out ahead of Hurricane Irene.
Hurricane Irene in North Carolina
STORM HITS US: Thomas and Kristen Bradshaw secure their boat dock as heavy winds and rain from Hurricane Irene move into Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
Two unidentified boys get back on their bikes as they leave the beach while being blasted with sand and rain from strong winds on the Outer Banks in Kill Devil Hills as Hurricane Irene reaches the North Carolina coast.
Two unidentified boys get back on their bikes as they leave the beach while being blasted with sand and rain from strong winds on the Outer Banks in Kill Devil Hills as Hurricane Irene reaches the North Carolina coast.
Boats are bashed against the shore and a dock in Morehead City as Hurricane Irene hits the North Carolina coast of the US.
Boats are bashed against the shore and a dock in Morehead City as Hurricane Irene hits the North Carolina coast of the US.
Waters lap at the foundation of a house along Calico Creek in Morehead City as Hurricane Irene bears down on the North Carolina coast of the US.
Waters lap at the foundation of a house along Calico Creek in Morehead City as Hurricane Irene bears down on the North Carolina coast of the US.
Two starfish are seen on the upper deck of a house in Pawleys Island, South Carolina after being washed onto the steps about five metres above the beach by Hurricane Irene.
Two starfish are seen on the upper deck of a house in Pawleys Island, South Carolina after being washed onto the steps about five metres above the beach by Hurricane Irene.
Shingles are torn from rooftops as the effects of Hurricane Irene are felt in Nags Head, North Carolina, in the US.
Shingles are torn from rooftops as the effects of Hurricane Irene are felt in Nags Head, North Carolina, in the US.
Waves crash under Jeannette's Pier as the effects of Hurricane Irene are felt in Nags Head, North Carolina, in the US.
Waves crash under Jeannette's Pier as the effects of Hurricane Irene are felt in Nags Head, North Carolina, in the US.
One of two people rescued from a sailboat (right) uses a line to make their way onto the beach on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk, Virginia after they, and another person, were rescued from the boat that foundered in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
One of two people rescued from a sailboat (right) uses a line to make their way onto the beach on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk, Virginia after they, and another person, were rescued from the boat that foundered in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
A photo provided by the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows an MTA employee filling an ''AquaDam'' across the Long Island Rail Road tracks at New York City’s Penn Station.
A photo provided by the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority shows an MTA employee filling an ''AquaDam'' across the Long Island Rail Road tracks at New York City’s Penn Station. The temporary barrier was installed to help keep flood waters stirred up by Hurricane Irene out of Penn Station’s tunnels.
Vehicles sit in flood waters at a auto repair shop as Hurricane Irene hits the North Carolina coast of the US.
Vehicles sit in flood waters at a auto repair shop as Hurricane Irene hits the North Carolina coast of the US.
Ron Briethaup, 48, of Buxton, North Carolina, works to free his fiancee's truck after it got stuck on a flooded section of highway as Hurricane Irene lashed the eastern coast of the US.
Ron Briethaup, 48, of Buxton, North Carolina, works to free his fiancee's truck after it got stuck on a flooded section of highway as Hurricane Irene lashed the eastern coast of the US.
Jarod Wilton looks at the flood waters rising to his doorstep in Alliance, North Carolina, as Hurricane Irene hits the US.
Jarod Wilton looks at the flood waters rising to his doorstep in Alliance, North Carolina, as Hurricane Irene hits the US.
Floodwaters surround this pickup truck on Hwy 55 in New Bern, North Carolina as Hurricane Irene hit the US.
Floodwaters surround this pickup truck on Hwy 55 in New Bern, North Carolina as Hurricane Irene hit the US.
A vehicle avoids a downed pole as Hurricane Irene hits Greenville, North Carolina, US.
A vehicle avoids a downed pole as Hurricane Irene hits Greenville, North Carolina, US.
People wade through a street flooded by Hurricane Irene in Manteo, North Carolina, US.
People wade through a street flooded by Hurricane Irene in Manteo, North Carolina, US.
Storm clouds from Hurricane Irene gather over New York.
Storm clouds from Hurricane Irene gather over New York.
New Zealander Joyce Santiago watches the New York skyline for Hurricane Irene's approach from the roof deck of her apartment.
New Zealander Joyce Santiago watches the New York skyline for Irene's approach from the roof deck of her apartment.
Waves break along the pier which was damaged during Hurricane Irene, in Ocean City, Maryland.
Waves break along the pier which was damaged during Hurricane Irene, in Ocean City, Maryland.
Waves pound the boardwalk and the beach at first light as Hurricane Irene slams into Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Waves pound the boardwalk and the beach at first light as Hurricane Irene slams into Asbury Park, New Jersey.
A lighthouse-shaped building is battered by storm surge and winds from Hurricane Irene in Montauk, New York.
A lighthouse-shaped building is battered by storm surge and winds from Hurricane Irene in Montauk, New York.
The Arr-Mac water rescue team from Wayne County manoeuvres around a beached boat in the middle of Highway 304 in Mesic, North Carolina.
The Arr-Mac water rescue team from Wayne County manoeuvres around a beached boat in the middle of Highway 304 in Mesic, North Carolina.
A large, fallen tree blocks a road while it rest on some cars in the Brooklyn borough of New York as Hurricane Irene hits the city.
A large, fallen tree blocks a road while it rest on some cars in the Brooklyn borough of New York as Hurricane Irene hits the city.
Waves crash over the shore during high tide during a storm surge from Hurricane Irene in Bayshore, New York, on Long Island.
Waves crash over the shore during high tide during a storm surge from Hurricane Irene in Bayshore, New York, on Long Island.
Harbourmaster Arjen Weehuizen walks along the inundated docks of Battery Park City's North Cove Marina as Tropical Storm Irene passes through New York.
Harbourmaster Arjen Weehuizen walks along the inundated docks of Battery Park City's North Cove Marina as Tropical Storm Irene passes through New York.
Children stand on the far side of a flooded portion of Massachusetts Route 5 which is closed to traffic in Northhampton due to flooding from tropical storm Irene.
Children stand on the far side of a flooded portion of Massachusetts Route 5 which is closed to traffic in Northhampton due to flooding from tropical storm Irene.
Aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, in East Haven, Connetticut.
Aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, in East Haven, Connetticut.
A caravan lies upside down on a riverbank in Berlin, Vermont, after it was washed away by flash flooding following heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene.
A caravan lies upside down on a riverbank in Berlin, Vermont, after it was washed away by flash flooding following heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene.
Flooding over a road from the Farmington River is seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, in Simsbury, Connetticut.
Flooding over a road from the Farmington River is seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, in Simsbury, Connetticut.
People take photos of a washed-out section of Route 7 south of Rutland, Vermont, following heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene that swelled rivers the day before.
People take photos of a washed-out section of Route 7 south of Rutland, Vermont, following heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene that swelled rivers the day before.
Floodwaters from the Passaic River engulf a service station after Hurricane Irene in Paterson, New Jersey.
Floodwaters from the Passaic River engulf a service station after Hurricane Irene in Paterson, New Jersey.
Floodwaters from the Passaic River engulf a bridge days after Hurricane Irene in Paterson, New Jersey.
Floodwaters from the Passaic River engulf a bridge days after Hurricane Irene in Paterson, New Jersey.
Residents use a boat to examine flooding in the town of Totowa, New Jersey.
Residents use a boat to examine flooding in the town of Totowa, New Jersey.
Pat Richard tries to make her way along what remains of East Beach Road in Westport, Massachusetts that was shattered by high surf and winds when Tropical Storm Irene swept the area.
Pat Richard tries to make her way along what remains of East Beach Road in Westport, Massachusetts that was shattered by high surf and winds when Tropical Storm Irene swept the area.
The swollen Passaic River floods River Road in Paterson, New Jersey.
The swollen Passaic River floods River Road in Paterson, New Jersey. Three days after Hurricane Irene blasted through the state and up the East Coast, there was little respite for many northern New Jersey communities facing a lengthy cleanup and a sobering tally of damage.
Water from the swollen Passaic River pours over the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey.
Water from the swollen Passaic River pours over the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey.

Tropical Storm Irene continued maximum winds speeds of 80 km per hour as the storm neared the US-Canadian border by late Sunday, the US National Hurricane Centre said.

At 3pm (NZ time) the centre of post-tropical cyclone Irene was located near about 80 km north of Berlin, New Hampshire and about 165 km south of Quebec City, Quebec.

"The Tropical Storm warnings in effect for Canada will likely be discontinued early Monday," the NHC said.

Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday after it swept up the East Coast over the weekend, leaving at least 15 dead, widespread flooding and as many as 3.6 million homes and businesses without electricity.

Hurricane Irene swept through Manhattan but reserved the worst of its fury for towns and suburbs up and down the northeastern United States where driving rain and flood tides inundated homes and cut power to millions.

It forced the closure of New York's mass transit system, which will remain mostly shut to commuters on Monday morning (tonight, NZ time), and the cancellation of thousands of flights, some of which would resume on Monday.

US President Barack Obama warned the region's problems were far from over.

"Many Americans are still at risk of power outages and flooding which could get worse in the coming days as rivers swell past their banks," Obama said, promising federal government help for recovery efforts.

It wasn't immediately clear how much Irene would cost but in New Jersey alone the damage was expected in "the billions of dollars," Governor Chris Christie told NBC's Meet the Press.

With many thousands of homeowners in the region suffering flooding there will be many questions over whether insurance policies offer cover and whether the federal government's flood program can handle the claims, especially at a time of austerity in Washington and in cash-strapped states.

New York City's 8.5 million people are not used to hurricanes and the city is plagued by aging infrastructure, leading many to issue dire warnings in recent days about what the hurricane could bring.

Authorities took unprecedented steps to prepare, including mandatory evacuations and a total shutdown of mass transit systems that will have had a major economic impact.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there were no reports of deaths or injuries in the city, though there were some close calls. In Staten Island, firefighters with boats rescued more than 60 people including three babies from 21 homes flooded with 1.5 metres of water.

While it weakened before it hit New York, the swirling storm still packed a wallop, especially in districts such as the Rockaways peninsula, a low-lying strip of land exposed to the Atlantic Ocean on the southeastern flank of the city.

Authorities closed three bridges leading to the peninsula before the storm.

"It was like being in the hull of a ship," said Patricia Keane, 42, who stayed in her Rockaway home and lost power but then used backup generators to supply electricity to herself and four neighbors, who all had flooded basements.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT RESTARTS

On Sunday afternoon (this morning, NZ time), about 370,000 city residents who had been ordered to leave their homes were told they could return.

Some very limited public transport was starting to resume with a few bus services running, but the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it was too soon to say when the New York subway system would return.

Commuter lines that bring many people into the city from surrounding areas were also still out.

It all means that many who normally commute into Manhattan and elsewhere in the region will find it very difficult to get to work on Monday (tonight, NZ time), though financial markets were expected to open as normal, albeit with reduced volume.

"All in all we are in pretty good shape," Bloomberg said, adding that, while it would be a "tough commute" on Monday, there had been no long-term damage to the subway system.

New Jersey, home to hundreds of thousands of people who travel into New York each day, was hard hit by flooding, downed trees and power outages. More than 100 dams in the state were being monitored for spills from high water, and one downstream town, High Bridge, was evacuated, Christie said.

Four people were killed in Pennsylvania from the effects of Hurricane Irene, including two men killed by falling trees, a state official said. That raised the US total to 20 dead in addition to three who were killed in the Dominican Republic and one in Puerto Rico when the storm was still in the Caribbean.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, whose state was hit earlier by the Hurricane, told CNN "We prepared for the worst but came out a little better than expected. Unfortunately now, four fatalities have been confirmed,"

"We've got some significant damage in some areas, from flooding, from wind, a lot of trees down, 2.5 million people or more without power in Virginia, that's the second largest outage in history," he said.

In North Carolina, where authorities confirmed at least six storm-related deaths since the hurricane made landfall on Saturday, Governor Bev Perdue was expected to request a federal disaster declaration.

The storm dumped up to 20cm of rain on the Washington region, but the capital avoided major damage.

As the storm moved north on Sunday, New England officials reported flooded roadways, trees downed over rail tracks and evacuations in some towns.

The storm zone stretched from Massachusetts' eastern islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to the western Berkshires mountain range, where authorities braced for dam failures because of the heavy rains.

SIGH OF RELIEF

In Manhattan, where massive flooding in the Financial District surrounding Wall Street was feared, there was 30cm of water in the streets at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan before the tide began receding at mid-morning.

Jeremy Corley, a 32-year-old web manager, was out in shorts and a rain jacket at the Seaport. "I was watching the news on TV and they were way over-exaggerating how bad it is so I wanted to go outside and check it out."

Nearby, a man was walking two dogs through water that came up to the bellies of his pets. Further north, a man was seen kayaking in the street, though the water was not very deep and a cyclist was able to make his way along the same street.

Wall Street seemed largely unaffected as did Ground Zero, where the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks is soon to be observed.

The impact was felt harder on Long Island. The waves at Long Beach, which faces the Atlantic Ocean, crested over the boardwalk and onto the streets, taking with them a two-story life-guard station.

After Irene, weather watchers were keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Jose, which formed near Bermuda.

This year has been one of the most extreme for weather in US history, with US$35 billion (NZ$41.7b) in losses so far from floods, tornadoes and heat waves.

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Reuters