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Video: Was Hurricane Irene over-hyped?

  1. Closed captioning of: Was Hurricane Irene over-hyped?

    >>> now the debate on whether the storm measured up to all the coverage. nbc's peter alexander experienced the storm firsthand. you were at the beach on connie island and now you're in the studio, what do you think?

    >> i'm still finding sand in my ears right now. your perspective on the to remember is a function of where you live. if you're in vermont or upstate new york or outer banks of north carolina , you are surely not asking this question right now. but in manhattan and other place where's many people expected hollywood type windows being blown out, they did, in fact, get a little bit less than expected. as you saw i experienced this experien firsthand at coney island . people were asking were we over-evacuated and was this storm over-hyped. this is not hunkering down.

    >> three hours ago i was reporting on the end of that dock. right now, it's floating.

    >> reporter: from the start we were warned our introduction to irene would be an ugly one.

    >> this has the makings of just the hurricane of our lifetime.

    >> reporter: an onuminous storm on the radar and on tv.

    >> it gets scarier and scarier.

    >> reporter: but was the first major hurricane of 2011 oversold? surely not if you ask the flood victims in more than a dozen states.

    >> we're a little worried right now.

    >> reporter: or the hundreds of thousands waking up in morning in the dark.

    >> we have power. these people have no power.

    >> reporter: and certainly in the in the minds of the families who lost loved ones. the economic losses are predicted to be in the range of $7 billion. but some say we wasted millions more stocking up and shutting down, ahead of a potential disaster that never met expectations. the good news is, at least along the coast, not as much damage as we thought.

    >> reporter: in fact, irene reached the big apple as a category 1 , quickly downgraded to a tropical storm . still punishing as i can attest. wow, that is just so stinging and uncomfortable. but causing limited damage.

    >> i'm glad that my kids are fine. my family is okay.

    >> reporter: opinions poured in on twitter. irene ain't no pushover, one wrote. she's still at it. irene was the most over-hyped, underwomening event since the "hangover 2." of course, it's easy to point fingers in hindsight. but lessons from past severe storms --

    >> my relatives in mississippi and in louisiana would beg to differ .

    >> reporter: -- have taught us we are beth served being overprepared.

    >> mother nature calls so i would rather take the proper precaution.

    >> reporter: new york governor andrew cuomo addressed the topic with my sunday night.

    >> just because it could have been worse doesn't mean the preparation wasn't justified.

    >> reporter: now it's easy to say whatever you like about irene . but everyone agrees, we are better off with her behind us.

    >> it was a hurricane. could have been -- could have been worse. it blew past us. what are you going to do, you know?

    >> reporter: as we have been seeing this morning there is significant flooding. and while this storm may have passed the damage and impact is only now beginning to be assessed, there are many places where they believe the rivers will only begin to flood later this week, matt. we're still going to be watching exactly what the impact of irene was well into the week. matt?

    >> peter alexander . peter, thank you very much. let's bring back in al along with the weather channel 's jim canne er cantore. let's start with you, al. was this storm overhypes? this storm killed more than 20 people and 4 million bepeople are without power, and clearly there's misery and destruction. how could it have been overhyped and yet people still question it. why?

    >> you look at the predictions, you look at the track, which was right on the money. category 3 storm . there's no armth here.

    >> so what's bugging people? because there are some people who are bugged by this?

    >> if we could make half the progress with intensity forecast as we've made with track forecast, this would be big, this would be better, but we didn't do that. we thought this was going to be a cat 4 comiing to the outer banks .

    >> the fact of the matter is the same people who are yelling that this storm was overhyped might have been yelling, as you down played this storm , and it had been more severe than you thought. think about this.

    >> here's a minimal category 1 storm . 23 people have lost their lives. how many more people would have died or could have died if this had been a stronger storm ? the preparations -- everything that was done, i would say we should do over again if we get the same scenario.

    >> how many more times do we have to play pictures in.

    >> and yet, brian, you see the evacuations of 300,000 people in lower manhattan , a million people along the jersey shore and they say, we didn't have to leave our homes. how would you respond?

    >> well, the fact, is matt, if i were to say to you that there's a one in ten chance that you're going to die if you don't fix that wheel on your car when you leave the studio this morning, probably you would fix it and most people would fix it. but not everybody would. and if you equate it in that kind of way, you know, the fact is that we don't know for sure but the odds were significant enough of a threat to life and more than property, but especially to life, because we didn't take action, that maybe one in ten chance.

    >> al, would you deal with a one in ten chance with life and death ? most people would not.

    >> al, is there a chance though that people who left their homes and inconvenienced by the evacuations and shut-downs of transportation systems during this storm are going to be less likely to leave their homes the next time they get warned of a storm approaching?

    >> of course.

    >> and might that not put them in harm's way?

    >> it will. but they need to keep in mind, again, 23 people are dead. and you know, look, if there's a bear outside your door and i see it and i don't say anything to you. i'm irresponsible. doesn't mean the bear is going to get in there and get you but you need to know that it's there.

    >> there's another aspect to them, jim. when the storm made landfall in knowledge knowledge and new york. we seen reports in the field talking about sustained winds of 45 miles an hour, 55 miles an hour. in all the years we've been reporting on hurricanes that is not a category 1 hurricane . in our opinion, did the national hurricane center keep this storm labeled a category 1 hurricane simply to keep people afraid and safe? and is that appropriate?

    >> no, i don't think they did at all. i mean, there all discussions through this, especially the second half of this thing, about how if you went up with height, there were very much stronger winds.

    >> that's not in the past how we label hurricanes. when they hit florida and atlantic coast we call them category 1 if it's 75 miles an hour, sustained and above. that's not what happened in this one. why?

    >> as it's coming up the coast it was still technically a hurricane. and you have to make sure that people are prepared for this. now, is it going to die down? yes, it did. but on the back side of the storm , like in long beach, we were getting 65, 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts. so, you know, you absolutely have to err on the side of caution.

    >> battery, the strongest winds came after the storm moved north. same thing here.

    >> al roker , jim cantore , thank you for doing this with us.

    >>> what do you think about this? was hurricane irene overhyped? head to our website, today.com, let us know. we'll tell you the results of what you had to say.

By
updated 8/29/2011 7:45:25 AM ET 2011-08-29T11:45:25

The path taken by Hurricane Irene was no mystery to forecasters. They knew where it was going. But what it would do when it got there was another matter.

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Predicting a storm's strength still baffles meteorologists. Every giant step in figuring out the path highlights how little progress they've made on another crucial question: How strong?

Irene made landfall Saturday morning at Cape Lookout, N.C. — a bull's-eye in the field of weather forecasts.

It hit where forecasters said it would and followed the track they had been warning about for days.

"People see that and assume we can predict everything," National Hurricane Center senior forecaster Richard Pasch said.

Video: Vt. governor: Irene caused ‘catastrophe’ (on this page)

But when Irene struck , the storm did not stick with the forecast's predicted major hurricane strength winds.

"It's frustrating when people take our forecasts verbatim and say, 'This is where it's going to be at this time and this is how strong it's going to be,'" Pasch said. "Because even though the track is good it's not certain."

But it's getting there.

By Monday night, five days before Irene first hit the East Coast, the hurricane center figured the storm would come ashore around the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

Video: Hurricane leaves its mark up East Coast (on this page)

By Tuesday night, they predicted it would rake the coast. And on Friday morning — 24 hours before landfall — they had the storm's next day location to within 10 miles or so.

Twenty years ago, 24-hour forecasts were lucky if they got it right within 100 miles and the average 36-hour forecast within 146 miles. With Irene, that was about the accuracy of the five-day forecast.

"This is a gold medal forecast," retired hurricane center director Max Mayfield said. "I don't think there's any doubt: I think they saved lives."

Interactive: Hurricanes: Destructive forces of nature (on this page)

The current director, Bill Read, tried not to sound boastful: "In the big picture of things, it looks like it panned out very well."

There are two reasons for the steady improvement in forecasts: Better computer models and better data to go into those models.

With Irene, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent extra money with jet flights and weather balloons across the country to get far more data than usual and it paid off in even better forecasts, Mayfield said.

Irene also was the type of storm that chugs off of Africa that is pretty simple to forecast accurately, said Georgia Tech meteorology professor Judith Curry, who makes private forecasts for energy interests with her firm Climate Forecast Applications Network.

Fickle storms
Storms in the Gulf of Mexico are much more fickle, with weaker and less obvious steering currents. In 1985, Hurricane Elena caused evacuation chaos as it threatened to hit western Florida twice, but never did so.

On the negative side, the forecast after Irene hit the Bahamas had it staying as a Category 3 and possibly increasing to a Category 4.

But it weakened and hit as a Category 1 storm and stayed that way up the coast until it faded into a tropical storm by the time it reached New York City. It lost strength as it moved north over land and cooler water.

Read said they will go back and figure out what happened, but noted they have made huge strides in projecting where a hurricane will hit.

Interactive: Hurricane facts, figures & preparation (on this page)

In past storms, they would have issued warnings for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, but there were no evacuations there for Irene.

"We're not completely sure how the interplay of various features is causing the strength of a storm to change," Read said.

One theory is that a storm's strength is dependent on the storm's inner core.

'Gap in the science'
Irene never had a classic, fully formed eye wall — even going through the Bahamas as a Category 3.

"Why it did that, we don't know," Read said. "That's a gap in the science."

Georgia Tech's Curry said one of the main problems is that the giant global computer models that do so well forecasting the track require large scale data.

Slideshow: Hurricane Irene (on this page)

The keys to intensity changes are usually too small for big computer models, she said.

Mayfield says what's needed is better real-time, small-scale information, like Doppler radar.

NOAA used old propeller planes to take Doppler radar data inside Irene, but the information will be used to design better intensity forecasts in the future, he said.

And when it comes to damage from Irene, the problem wasn't wind strength, but storm surge and flooding, which was the message from forecasters all week long.

Given that the accuracy of forecasting intensity has not changed much at all in 20 years, Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society, said he thought the strength forecast was pretty good.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Interactive: Hurricane Tracker

See current storm data and paths of earlier storms from this season.

Photos: Hurricane Irene

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  1. A house destroyed by Irene sits in a river in Rochester, Vt., on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Homeowner Jon Graham, right, removes items from the home with the help of friends. (Vyto Starinskas / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rescue crews in Paterson, N.J., patrol the intersection of Memorial Drive and Governor Road as the swollen Passaic River floods on Aug. 31. (Rich Schultz / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Floodwaters from the Passaic River fill streets in Paterson, N.J., on Aug. 31. (Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A volunteer removes mud and debris from a real estate office on Aug. 31 in Wilmington, Vt. The nearby Deerfield River overflowed its banks Sunday, inundating homes and businesses in the downtown area. (Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A woman looks out over a flooded street on Aug. 31 in Wallington, N.J. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Henry Rhines tries to salvage anything he can from the debris field that was once his home in Columbia, N.C., on Aug. 30. Several houses along U.S. 64 south of Columbia were destroyed when a tornado touched down before Hurricane Irene's wind and rain. Rhines wasn't home at the time, evacuating to Rocky Mount earlier in the day. "That tornado put a hurting on us right on down the line," he said. (Shawn Rocco / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Flooding in Rochester, Vt., eroded part of the town's cemetery, seen here on Aug. 30, exposing some coffins. (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Residents of Totowa, N.J., are evacuated from their flooded homes on Aug. 30. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Corrinne Levin kisses her daughter Jillianne Davis, whose home in Woodford, Vt., was destroyed by floodwaters. They were outside Davis' home on Aug. 30. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Keith Beavers examines his tobacco crop following Hurricane Irene in Mount Olive, N.C., on Aug. 30. Far from the beach towns that took Hurricane Irene's first hit, the storm inflicted some of its worst damage on inland farms from North Carolina to New York as crops were pummeled by wind, scalded by salt spray and submerged by floodwaters. Some farmers, like Beavers, are reporting total losses. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Jude Fitzgerald salvages items from a mud-filled basement in Brattleboro, Vt., on Aug. 30. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A bridge on Route 73 in Rochester, Vt., lies in the river on Aug. 30, cutting off road access to the town. (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A man looks out at a closed and damaged beach on Aug. 30 in Westport, Conn. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Standing on a neighbor's porch in Stumpy Point, N.C., Darnel and Debbie Talbert lean on each other as Nationwide insurance agent Paul Tine checks on their policy on Aug. 30. The Talbert's house was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene. (Shawn Rocco / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Irene-triggered floodwaters remain several feet deep in Wayne, N.J., on Aug. 30. New Jersey and Vermont continue to struggle with their worst flooding in decades. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Residents wait in line outside a grocery store on Aug. 30 in Rochester, Vt. The town has been completely cut off since Irene hit. (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This section of Highway 23 in Wayne, N.J., remains flooded on Aug. 30. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Greg Austin of Avon, N.C., on Aug. 29 tries to save a large fish that was washed out of a local pond during the storm surge from Hurricane Irene. Avon is one of the Hatteras Island communities cut off due to breaches in N.C. Highway 12. (Chuck Liddy / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Flooding over a road from the Farmington River is seen in the aftermath of Irene in Simsbury, Conn., on Aug. 29. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Tom Chase waves atop of his friend's beach home in East Haven, Conn., on Aug. 29. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Firefighters from the Skyline Lakes Fire Department try to extinguish a fire fed by a natural gas line, which ruptured causing the house to explode, after the Pompton River overflowed its banks during a record flood, in Pompton Lake, N.J., on Aug. 29. (Chip East / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. This section of Route 7 south of Rutland, Vt., was washed out on Aug. 29. (Vyto Starinskas / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Gino Borova gives a ride to his neighbor, Tom Soboleski, as they make their way through floodwaters after surveying their homes in Pompton Lakes, N.J., on Aug. 29. The Ramapo River flooded the area. (Julio Cortez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Strafford, Conn., saw storm damage from Irene, on Aug. 29. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Nan Raphael looks at damage to her block on Aug. 29 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Route 5 between Scotia to Schenectady, N.Y., is overrun by flood waters from the Mohawk River on Aug. 29. (Str / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The top layer of blacktop on River Road lies peeled off due to AuSable River flooding in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Aug. 29. (Mike Lynch / Adirondack Daily Enterprise via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Nina Brennan, right, and Phyllis Berry clean mud from the Proud Flower store in Waterbury, Vt., on Aug. 29. (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Long Beach Lifeguard Patrol members clean rescue boards along the boardwalk at Long Beach, N.Y., on Aug. 29. (Craig Ruttle / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Stranded travelers rest at LaGuardia Airport in New York on Aug. 29. The couple lying down is scheduled to take a flight to Dallas on Aug. 30. New York-area airports reopened on Aug. 29 as airlines gradually restored service after canceling more than 11,000 flights. (Don Emmert / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Residents walk along Highway 12, the main road that connects Cape Hatteras National Seashore to the main land which was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in Rodanthe, N.C., on Aug. 28. (Jose Luis Magana / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. An unidentified male hangs on to a branch in a rain swollen creek as he waits for rescuers in New City, N.Y., on Aug. 28. He and three others went tubing in the creek and had to be rescued by New City and Stony Point fire departments' water rescue teams. (Peter Carr / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Firefighters put out a fire at a rental house on Aug. 28 after it was destroyed by Irene at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Rodanthe, N.C. (Jose Luis Magana / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. The raging Whetstone Brook surges over the falls in downtown Brattleboro, Vt., on Aug. 28. (Chris Bertelsen / The Brattleboro Reformer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A motorboat passes a submerged pickup truck on Main Street in Washingtonville, N.Y., on Aug. 28, following heavy rains from Irene. (Paul Kazdan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. A Fairfield Beach Road home is submerged in Pine Creek in Fairfield, Conn., as treacherous weather caused by Irene came through the area on Aug. 28. (Cathy Zuraw / The Connecticut Post via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Billy Stinson, left, comforts his daughter, Erin Stinson, as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood before it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in Nags Head, N.C., on Aug. 28. The cottage, built in 1903, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Albemarle Sound in Nags Head. Stinson has owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963. "We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset," said Erin afterward. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Bravo Company 1st of 120 out of Whiteville ride through rural Goose Creek Island handing out bags of ice on Aug. 28, in Lowland, N.C. Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina, creating a storm surge of up to 8 feet in some areas of the Pamilco Sound. (Sara D. Davis / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. With the skyline of New York in the background, people fly a kite at the Erie-Lackawanna Park along Hudson River after the pass of Irene in Hoboken, N.J., on Aug 28. (Eduardo Munoz / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. A car sits submerged on Main Street in Hightstown, N.J., on Aug. 28, after Peddie Lake overflowed from Irene. Businesses and shops along the street were flooded. (Jim Gerberich / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Crews from the New York Department of Environmental Protection work to unplug storm sewer grates on the Van Wyck Expressway under the Grand Central Parkway overpass in the Queens neighborhood of New York on Aug. 28. Widespread flooding of interstates and low-lying areas kept crews busy overnight and throughout the day. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Officials survey the damage to Route 12 on Hatteras Island, N.C., on Aug. 28. Hurricane Irene swept through the area Saturday, Aug. 27, cutting the roadway in five locations. (Steve Helber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. A family inspects a downed tree in New York's Central Park after Irene dumped more than 6 inches of rain on Aug. 28. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Ken Smith clears the street in front of his family's house after Irene hit the Rockaway beach section of Queens, N.Y., on Aug. 28. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Mark Wade trips while surfing with his friend Craig Busick, left, in a large puddle in front of the Board of Education in Centreville, Md., on Aug. 28, after Irene. (Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Danica Quinn, 9, and her dog Scruffy, stand in her front yard on C Street in Bridgeton, N.C., on Aug. 28. Quinn and her family were in their home during Hurricane Irene when winds toppled a pine tree that crashed through the roof of their living room. No one was hurt, though the house was destroyed. (Byron Holland / New Bern Sun Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Lechelle Spalding pulls a boat up to her flooded home after a storm surge on the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Aug. 28. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Annie Gullett, right, gets help from her daughter Katy Caroline, center, and friend Louise Sanderlin sorting through damaged items in her gift shop after it was flooded in the wake of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28 in Manteo, N.C. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Darrell Tarte, a property estimator with Erie Insurance, surveys damage from a tree at a home in Port Republic, Md., on Aug. 28. (Steve Ruark / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Two Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority trains sit in water on flooded tracks on Aug. 28 in Trenton, N.J. Rains from Irene caused inland flooding of rivers and streams. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Rainwater collects beneath machinery at the World Trade Center site on Aug. 28 in New York. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. High winds from Irene knocked down five large trees in front of the East River Cooperative Village apartment buildings along Grand Avenue on Aug. 28 in New York City. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Waves and storm surge pound the boardwalk and the beach at first light as Irene slams into Asbury Park, N.J., on Aug. 28. (Chip East / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Brian Grant, left, and Bob Bianchini, engineers from the public works department out for a safety inspection, are slammed by waves and storm surge pounding the boardwalk and the beach at Asbury Park, N.J., on Aug. 28. (Chip East / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. Sand covers the boardwalk after Irene passed through in Ocean City, Md., on Aug. 28. (Molly Riley / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Chris Swimm retrieves planks from a friend's deck washed away by waves from Irene that surged onto Wilbur's Point in Fairhaven, Mass., on Aug. 28. (Peter Pereira / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. Waves kicked up by Irene crash into homes on Wilbur's Point in Fairhaven, Mass., on Aug. 28. (Peter Pereira / The Standard Times via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. Josh Holloway, son of homeowner Jack Holloway, stands near the front door as family members look over the damage to their home in Lewis, Del., on Aug. 28. (Suchat Pederson / The News Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Hurricane Irene's wind and rain pour down as North Cove Marina employees work to secure gangways, docks and boats as seawater comes over the marina's low walls just before high tide in the World Financial Center Plaza on Aug. 28 in New York City. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Pat Valent helps friends clear out belongings from their storm-damaged beach home in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach, Va. on Aug. 28. Irene caused damage over such a broad area that the total damage is not yet known. (Steve Helber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. A woman walks by downed trees in Brooklyn during heavy rain and winds from Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28 in New York City. While Hurricane Irene has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, it has knocked out power to more than 3 million people. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. A lighthouse-shaped building is battered by storm surge and winds from Hurricane Irene in Montauk, New York on Aug. 28. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. A man walks on a flooded street in Hoboken, N.J. on Aug. 28. (Kena Betancur / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Jeremy Wilkins of the Kitty Hawk Fire Department removes a tree that was downed by Hurricane Irene on the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Aug. 28, (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Rising water laps over the sea wall at Battery Park in New York City on Aug. 28. Hurricane Irene bore down on a dark and quiet New York early Sunday, bringing winds and rapidly rising seawater that threatened parts of the city. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. A bull dozer clears sand and debris from Hwy. 12 near Avon, N.C. on Aug. 28. High winds from hurricane Irene and overnight flooding affected much of the Outer Banks. (Steve Early / The Virginia-Pilot via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. The Coney Island boardwalk in New York is obscured by sand and rain as Hurricane Irene reached the area on Aug. 28. Rainfall overflowed sewers and seawater lapped at sidewalks at the edges of New York City from densely populated lower Manhattan to the far reaches of Queens as a weakening Irene made landfall over Coney Island. (Craig Ruttle / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. A street signs rest in a Baltimore, Md. street, Aug. 28, after falling over during Hurricane Irene. The storm caused some power outages but no significant damage or flooding throughout the Baltimore region. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. Manhattan is hit by Hurricane Irene on Sunday, Aug. 28. The hurricane hit New York City’s skyscrapers with fierce winds and threatened to flood the financial district after killing ten people along the East coast on Saturday. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. IKONOS satellite images show before, Dec. 27, 2010, and after, Aug. 28, 2011, views of an area north of Rodanthe, North Carolina following Hurricane Irene. The after view shows broken sections of Highway 12 caused by the hurricane. (Geoeye / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. Heavy rain falls in Battery Park in New York City as Hurricane Irene hits Manhattan on Aug. 28. Battery Park and other areas in Lower Manhattan were evacuated in advance of the storm. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. People walk in Times Square in New York on Aug. 28, as Hurricane Irene hits the city and Tri State area with rain and high winds. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. A gas station is damaged on Aug. 28 after Hurricane Irene swept through Lusby, Md. (Steve Ruark / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Waves crash onto a road as Hurricane Irene arrives, Aug. 28, in Southampton, New York. Irene is expected to move through the area today with heavy rain and high winds. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. Floodwater surrounds a home as Hurricane Irene arrives on Aug. 28 in Southampton, New York. Irene is expected to move through the area today with heavy rain and high winds. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. Branches litter an alley in Virginia Beach, VA on Sunday, Aug. 28. The hurricane made landfall in North Carolina and Virginia early Saturday morning and has now moved further up the East coast to New Jersey and New York later today. (Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. A man walks past a damaged store front on a boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., on Aug. 28. Authorities in Ocean City said that there were no reports of major damage. (Patrick Semansky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach, Va. on Aug. 28. Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina and Virginia early Saturday morning and has now moved further up the East coast. (Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. Large waves from Hurricane Irene pound the Ocean City pier on Aug. 28 in Ocean City, Md. During the night Hurricane Irene past by the small resort town causing power outages, minimal flood and wind damage. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. Two men explore a street flooded by Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27 in Manteo, N.C. (John Bazemore / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. This road in Virginia Beach, Va., flooded on Aug. 27. (Steve Helber / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  82. A water rescue team maneuvers around a beached boat in the middle of Hwy. 304 in Mesic, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Chris Seward / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  83. Floodwaters surround homes on Hwy 304 in Mesic, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Chris Seward / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  84. Jackie Sparnackel has to abandon her van and her belongings after she ventured to check out the storm-damaged pier in Frisco, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Chuck Liddy / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  85. Firefighters work to remove the body of an 11-year-old killed when a tree fell and severely damaged this home in Newport News, Va., on Aug. 27. (Rob Ostermaier / Newport News Daily Press / MCT via Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  86. The hurricane-force winds of Irene rip the siding off of homes in Nags Head, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Stephen M. Katz / The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  87. Jarod Wilton looks at the floodwaters rising to his doorstep on Aug. 27, in Alliance, N.C., as Hurricane Irene hits the coast. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  88. Kelly Harvey, who evacuated her St. Leonard, Md., home, plays with her daughter on Aug. 27 at a hurricane shelter set up at Southern Middle School in Lusby, Md. (Steve Ruark / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  89. Lounge chairs are stored in a pool in Ocean City, Md., on Aug. 27 in order to keep them from blowing away. (Molly Riley / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  90. Two men push a cart through an otherwise deserted Grand Central Terminal in New York on Aug. 27. Metro North has suspended service and Amtrak is running on a reduced schedule due to Hurricane Irene. (Marjorie Anders / NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  91. Sandbags are stacked outside a Manhattan financial district building on Aug. 27 in New York. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  92. The Berkeley Mall in Goldsboro, N.C., saw a roof collapse in its atrium section on Aug. 27. (Michael K. Dakota / The Goldsboro News-Argus via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  93. The victim of a fatal car accident near Interstate 795 in Goldsboro, N.C., is recovered by crews on Aug. 27. The two-car accident occurred at an intersection where traffic signals were not working due to a power outage caused by Irene. (Robert Willett / The News & Observer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  94. People shield themselves from blowing sand and rain as they look over the beach during Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27 in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  95. Damaged power lines burn in Nags Head, N.C., on Aug. 27, as Hurricane Irene hits the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  96. Cody Levy, left, Ian Crossman, and Christian Van Vliet run out onto a receded Albemarle Sound in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Aug. 27. The sound had moved out due to the high winds of Hurricane Irene. (Shawn Rocco / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  97. Vehicles are driven through a flooded area during Hurricane Irene in Surf City, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Randall Hill / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  98. People hurry in the rain on the boardwalk as Hurricane Irene bears down on Cape May, N.J., on Aug. 27. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  99. Turnstiles are barricaded with caution tape shortly before the New York City Subway system suspended service for the first time ever, as preparations are made for Hurricane Irene, in New York, on Aug. 27. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  100. A worker places plywood on the windows of a home as he and other workers secure it against the winds of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27, in Water Mill, N.Y. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  101. One of two people rescued from a sailboat uses a line to make their way onto the beach on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk, Va., on Aug. 27. The two were rescued from the boat that foundered in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. A rescuer, left, waits for s second person to exit the boat. (Bill Tiernan / The Virginian-Pilot via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  102. An onlooker takes a photo of a fallen gas canopy hit by Hurricane Irene, at the Atlantic Food Mart in Surf City, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Randall Hill / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  103. A man fills sand bags at 128th Street beach in the Rockaways, N.Y., on Aug. 27, in preparation for Hurricane Irene. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  104. Police walk through an area which is under mandatory evacuation orders in the Rockaways, N.Y., on Aug. 27, in preparation for Hurricane Irene. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  105. Arseni Flax, center, and his mother Nelly wait for their subway train to leave as they bring along their parakeets while evacuating the Coney Island section of New York, on Aug. 27. (Craig Ruttle / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  106. Margene Jezo of Kitty Hawk goes for a 6-mile jog as Hurricane Irene lashes the Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk, N.C, on Aug. 27. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  107. Don Hurtig looks at an oak tree that blew over in his front yard as Hurricane Irene comes ashore near Morehead City, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Steve Nesius / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  108. Defying mandatory evacuation orders and a curfew, summer residents Pam Cooke, left, and Jody Bowers share a laugh as strong winds puff up Jody's jacket as they venture out to the beach in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  109. People shop at a Hurricane Irene fashion sale in the town of Amagansett, N.Y. on the east end of Long Island, on Aug. 27. (Peter Foley / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  110. Lifeguard Steve Thompson patrols the beach on Aug. 27, in Montauk, N.Y., as Hurricane Irene approaches. (Stephen Chernin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  111. The sun breaks through as surfers hit the ocean on Aug. 27, off of Pawleys Island, S.C. after Hurricane Irene moved through the area and north along the eastern Atlantic coast. (Steve Jessmore / The Sun-News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  112. Water in a parking lot enters a storm drain as winds and high tides from approaching Hurricane Irene start to hit the area, on Aug. 27, in Ocean City, Md. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  113. Debbie Austin gets off her boat as winds and high tides from approaching Hurricane Irene start to hit the area, on Aug. 27, in Ocean City, Md. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  114. Personnel at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, including NHC director Bill Read, center bottom, conduct a conference call to coordinate the 11 a.m. ET forecast for Hurricane Irene, on Aug. 27. (Andy Newman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  115. Abandoned beachfront houses are surrounded by rising water from Hurricane Irene in Nags Head, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  116. A pedestrian crosses an open area as Hurricane Irene passes through Wrightsville Beach, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Randall Hill / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  117. Roman Alvarez, left, and Bob Alvarez use plywood to secure a business against the winds of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 27, in Southhampton, N.Y. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  118. Rhiannon Shaw, 9, tries to stay warm while checking out the beach with friends as Hurricane Irene passes through Wrightsville Beach, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Randall Hill / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  119. Waves crash into Avalon Pier as Hurricane Irene strikes the Outer Banks in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Aug. 27. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  120. Pawleys Island police closed the North Causeway to Pawleys Island as the marshes filled with water at high tide, forming white caps and began crossing the road on Aug. 26 in Pawleys Island, S.C. (Steve Jessmore / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  121. Milk refrigerators sit almost empty at a Target store as New Yorkers stock up on supplies in preparation for Hurricane Irene in Queens, New York on Aug. 26. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  122. Traffic backs up at The Washout at Folly Beach as people come out to watch the waves created by Hurricane Irene and cheer on the few surfers that came out on Aug. 26 in Folly Beach, S.C. (Sarah Bates / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  123. Boaters brave the waves and wind caused by Hurricane Irene at the Morris Island light house on Aug. 26 in Folly Beach, S.C. (Sarah Bates / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  124. People crowd a Whole Foods store in Manhattan before the arrival of Hurricane Irene in New York City on Aug. 26. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  125. Heading out before Hurricane Irene arrives, people line up on Aug. 26, for a ferry leaving the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. (Cj Gunther / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  126. People crowd an outdoor supply store in New York City on Aug. 26. The store had already sold out of batteries and flashlights. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  127. Cars pack the westbound lanes of the Atlantic City Expressway on Aug. 26, as thousands of people evacuate the barrier islands along the southern New Jersey coastline ahead of Hurricane Irene. (Tom Mihalek / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  128. An 83-year-old gets help finding a taxi in New York City on Aug. 26 after she and some 400 others were discharged or moved from a hospital in a low-lying area due to Irene. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  129. Travellers wait in line for Metro North tickets at New York's Grand Central Station on Aug. 26. (Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  130. Beachgoers walk against the wind as Hurricane Irene begins to pound Atlantic Beach, N.C., on Aug. 26. (Steve Nesius / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  131. A worker boards up a "Ripleys Believe it or Not!" located on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., on Aug. 26. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  132. Nursing home residents are evacuated in Barco, N.C., on Aug. 26. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  133. Traffic northbound on Garden State Parkway near Ocean View, N.J., was backed up on Aug. 26. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  134. A shopper passes by empty shelves while looking for bottled water at a store at Rockaway Beach in New York on Aug. 26. (Allison Joyce / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  135. Ambulances wait to transfer patients out of Coney Island Hospital as evacuations began in low-lying parts of New York on Aug. 26. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  136. A surfboard provides protection from wind gusts of 50 mph on Folly Beach, S.C., on Aug. 26. (Richard Ellis / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  137. Customers stand in line outside a Home Depot in Springfield, N.J., on Aug. 26. More than 50 people put their names on a wait list for a rumored shipment of generators. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  138. A lifeguard stand is removed along a beach in Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 25, ahead of Hurricane Irene. (Danny Drake / The Press of Atlantic City via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  139. A message is left for Hurricane Irene on one house, as a resident boards up another on Aug. 25 in Nags Head, N.C. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  140. A high hazard warning flag for dangerous rip currents is raised on Aug. 25 at Tybee Island, Ga. (Stephen Morton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  141. Ismael Ramirez, right, fastens a plywood board to a house an Ortley Beach, N.J., while his brother Jorge Ramirez measures the next board. The handymen are boarding up the house for a New Jersey Shore resident in preparation for Hurricane Irene on Aug. 25. Gov. Chris Christie asked New Jersey shore visitors to get out by midday Friday because the hurricane is poised to be a "serious, significant event" with possible flooding across the entire state. (Julio Cortez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  142. Cory Ritz braces himself as a wave bursts onto a pier on Aug. 25 in Boynton Beach, Fla. Irene caused high surf along the Florida coast. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  143. Workers at Alligator River Growers harvest corn in Engelhard, N.C., on Aug. 25, in advance of Hurricane Irene as it threatens to make landfall in North Carolina. The storm's winds and torrential rains could mean devastating losses for those who grow corn, cotton, soybeans, tobacco and timber. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  144. Shoppers stock up on water from rapidly emptying shelves at a grocery store in Far Rockaway in New York on Aug. 25. Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged New York City residents living in low-lying areas to line up a place to stay on high ground ahead of a possible evacuation this weekend. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  145. Winds from Hurricane Irene whip through Nassau, Bahamas, on Aug. 25. The center of the storm stayed offshore but still downed trees and caused power outages. (Lynne Sladkybahma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  146. Heeding the mandatory visitor evacuation, the Wyn family of Cleona, Pa., pack up at their rented beach house in Nags Head, N.C., on Aug. 25. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  147. Tugboats help Navy guided missile destroyers, the Jason Dunham, left, and the the Winston Churchill, leave the Norfolk Naval Station on Aug. 25. as Hurricane Irene approaches. The U.S. Navy ordered more than 60 ships out to safer waters so they could better weather the storm. (Bill Tiernan / The Virginian Pilot via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  148. Trees downed by Hurricane Irene block a road in Nassau, Bahamas, on Aug. 25. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  149. Residents of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, on Aug. 24 look at damage left by Irene along the Nigua River. At least three people were killed and more than 37.000 people were evacuated in the country due to the heavy rains caused by the hurricane earlier in the week. (Orlando Barría / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  150. Residents search for belongings amid debris in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, on Aug. 24. (Roberto Guzman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Homeowner Jon Graham removes items from his demolished home
    Vyto Starinskas / AP
    Above: Slideshow (150) Hurricane Irene
  2. Daryl Cagle / MSNBC.com, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (11) Cartoonists poke at Irene
  3. Eric Gay / AP
    Slideshow (29) Hurricane havoc

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