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Irene remains threat to U.S. even the worst is gone


13:14, August 29, 2011

A resident takes photo after the storm in Ocean City, the United States, Aug. 28, 2011. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Reduced to post-tropical cyclone, Irene is heading toward Canada Sunday night after inflicting less-than-expected damage on the eastern U.S. coast.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has already announced that the worst of Irene had passed for much of the East Coast.

Still, U.S. officials warned the storm's spell could remain with deadly floods continuing to pose hazards.

"I want people to understand that this is not over," President Barack Obama said from the White House in the afternoon. "The impacts of this storm will be felt for some time, and the recovery effort will last for weeks or longer."


Irene came to the East Coast in the morning after making landfall in North Carolina as category one hurricane. It lost some strength as it hit the New York City, with winds dropping to 65 mph by 9 a.m. eastern time (1300 GMT) and was thus downgraded to tropical storm status, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

As it moved up into New England, the storm weakened even further, with maximum sustained winds dropping to 50 mph when it approaches the Canadian border by 8 p.m. (2400 GMT), the center said.

The storm has claimed at least 20 lives across eight states by Sunday evening, with many of whom killed when toppled trees crashed their houses or cars. Others died in road accidents as the storm led to flooding and failed traffic lights.

However, the worst-case scenario predicted for some of the cities and states had not come true. Even in the New York City, where 370,000 had been evacuated for fears of damaging flash flooding and mass transit was shut down for the first time in the city's history, no major wind damage, deaths or serious injuries were reported. The first-ever evacuation order was lifted at 3 p.m.(1900 GMT), and the subways will reopen on Monday.

Washington D.C. seemed to have suffered only minor damages, city officials said, though the full picture would need more time to assess.

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