Looking Back: 10 Things to Know About Hurricane Irene
What to know about the 2011 hurricane that caused damage from the Caribbean to New England.
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Irene's Lifespan and Reach
Occurring from August 21-28, 2011, Hurricane Irene hit the Bahamas as a Category 3 hurricane, but gradually weakened. It made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane and caused widespread damage across a large portion of the eastern United States as it moved north-northeastward, bringing significant effects from the mid-Atlantic states through New England.
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Flooding in New England
The most severe impact of Irene in the northeastern United States was catastrophic inland flooding in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
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Reports indicate that Irene was directly responsible for 49 deaths: 5 in the Dominican Republic, 3 in Haiti, and 41 in the United States. Surprisingly, there were no reported deaths in the Bahamas, where Irene was the strongest.
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Irene spawned several tornadoes along its path over the eastern United States. The strongest of these was an EF2 tornado that touched down in Columbia, North Carolina, destroying a few manufactured homes.
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In the mainland United States, Irene caused widespread damage to homes and felled trees from North Carolina northward, and produced extensive power outages. In North Carolina, the flow from the sound to the ocean damaged Highway 12, cutting several breaches. The most severe surge damage occurred between Oregon Inlet and Cape Hatteras, but significant storm surge damage also occurred along southern Chesapeake Bay.
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Massive Power Outages
Irene’s tropical-storm-force winds and heavy rains resulted in power outages for up to 3 million U.S. residents. These outages, mainly across Connecticut and Long Island, lasted up to about one week.
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New York Skirts Severe Damage
Since Irene’s strongest winds were over water to the east of New York City, it escaped severe damage. Nonetheless, a storm surge of 3-6 feet caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage in NYC and Long Island.
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Rainfall in Puerto Rico
Irene also produced copious amounts of rain in Puerto Rico, with a maximum of 22.05 inches in Gurabo Abajo, which caused major flooding in the northeastern portion of the island.
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Flash Flooding in the Northeast
The rain that occurred in New York state and New England (especially in central and southern Vermont) caused devastating flash flooding across many mountain valleys, with some record-breaking flood stages on larger rivers. Nearly 2,400 roads, 800 homes and businesses, 300 bridges, and a half dozen railroad tracks destroyed or damaged from the flooding in southern Vermont.
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Billions of Dollars in Losses
In the United States, the Insurances Services Office reported that the hurricane caused an estimated $4.3 billion in losses. Doubling this figure in an attempt to account for uninsured losses results in an estimated total of $8.6 billion. Based on National Flood Insurance Program data, it is estimated that Irene caused $7.2 billion in losses from inland flooding and storm surge. Using these figures, the total damage estimate is $15.8 billion.