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Hurricane Irene weakens to tropical storm, still ferocious

(Xinhua)

09:30, August 29, 2011

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it pounded the New York City, the National Hurricane Center said early Sunday.

Irene churned up the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast as a Category One hurricane since it made landfall in North Carolina Saturday morning.

It lost some strength as it hit the New York City Sunday morning, with winds dropping to 65 miles per hour (mph) by 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), the center said.

Still, Irene remains dangerous as streets at edges of the New York City were flooded.

About 4 million people are currently out of power, as power lines were downed by strong wind and heavy rain and some power plants shut down or reduced operation out of precaution.

At least 11 people died from the hurricane in some states, including North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Florida. Some were killed by fallen trees, and some others were killed in car accidents as the powerful storm caused road flooding and traffic light failures.

The latest death was reported in Connecticut where a person was killed in a fire that apparently was triggered by wires knocked down by the storm.

Washington D.C. seemed having suffered minor damages so far, city officials said, though the full extent of the damage would need more time to assess.

The biggest problem in the district is power outages. Some 28,000 to 29,000 customers were out of power as of Sunday morning, Robyn Johnson, Public Affairs Officer of D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, told Xinhua.

The storm downed six piers, along with unidentified number of trees and traffic lights, which might caused traffic problems when people go outside Sunday, she said. But there were no reports of injuries or deaths related to the storm.

Irene is predicted to reach northern New England State by Sunday night. Boston and Massachusetts have suspended all transit service, with no subway and bus service on Sunday.

It would be too early to tell the economic loss caused by Irene, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned it might be enormous.

"I've got to imagine the damage estimates will be in the billions of dollars if not the tens of billions of dollars," Christie said on an NBC News program Sunday.

Irene slammed into Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey, about 5:30 a.m. 0930 GMT) Sunday, when it remained a Category One hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

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