Hurricane Irene lost some steam just before sending six to nine-foot waves to batter North Carolina's Outer Banks on Friday morning. The storm is set to crawl up the coast for the rest of the weekend, slinging 100 mile-per-hour winds and curtains of rain at every major city on the Eastern seaboard; her slow progress and wide base has many worried about widespread flooding as waves slam the coast and inland areas brace for up to ten inches of rain. Though Irene has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, mandatory evacuations are underway from Nags Head to Atlantic City to Lower Manhattan. (New York City residents: check out this map to see if you're in the evacuation zone.) Irene will follow a similar path as Hurricane Gloria in 1985, and with 65 million people in her path, she's expected to do billions of dollars worth of damage. And ruin everyone's weekend.
Do you live along Irene's war path? Email us photos, videos and ground reports of preparation efforts and/or evacuation mayhem near you!
- The airlines are canceling a crapload of flights this weekend. Christian Science Monitor estimates it could be over 10,000 in total, and they've got a helpful what-to-do-if-it-happens-to-you post.
- Remember all that talk about this being a storm of historic proportions? Here's a brief history, visual of tropical storms and hurricanes on the East Coast from Owen James Burke at The Atlantic.
- A couple of odd but worthwhile items at Gizmodo: "How to Listen to First Responders During the Hurricane" and a companion piece "Irene Emergency Tracker Site Set to Ambient Music Is Helpful, Creepy."
- How can say no to this collection of hurricane-themed cartoons from The New Yorker's cartoon editor Robert Mankoff?
6:15 p.m.: More good news for New Yorkers: Governor Cuomo has announced that the MTA will be suspending subway fares and bridge tolls for those who live in evacuation zones. "The only approach to a storm of this magnitude is to act preemptively. Waiving fares may be the factor that convinces some people to leave promptly when they might otherwise be tempted to stay and confront this hurricane," Cuomo said. Manhattan residents will also be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi until the end of the disaster, and The New York Times is dropping their paywall for all Hurricane Irene-related content.
Bad news: The line at the Target at 225th Street in the Bronx--and presumably everywhere else--is absolutely insane. Atlantic Wire reader Jason Wise says there's "approximately a one hour wait to check out."
6:00 p.m.: Photos of the "I Survived Hurricane Irene" t-shirts have emerged. Do you think the shop knows that they're selling hurricane t-shirts with an image of a tornado on them?
[photo via Getty]
[photo via Reuters]
5:45 p.m.: Kevin Roose at The New York Times got a scoop, "More hurricane news: Goldman Sachs told employees they can dress casually on Monday as long as they 'exercise good judgment.'" Read his full report on how Wall Street is responding at NYT's Dealbook blog.
5:30 p.m.: This should not come as a terrible surprise. Traffic is awful; gas prices are jacked up; and all that talk about this being a storm of historic proportions is proving to be true. MSNBC reports:
Traffic jams as long as 20 miles were reported and some service stations in New Jersey and other areas had run out of gasoline, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks supplies and prices.
Gasoline demand jumped 20 percent to 40 percent in Mid-Atlantic states, the service said. Evacuation orders covered 1 million people in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in New York City, 300,000 in North Carolina and 100,000 in Delaware.
"This is probably the largest number of people that have been threatened by a single hurricane in the United States," said Jay Baker, a geography professor at Florida State University.
5:15 p.m.: The best news for New Yorkers yet: Jury duty is cancelled on Monday. The jury's still out on whether or not the New York Stock Exchange will be open. (See what we did there?) Bloomberg reports:
"If we can open here but none of our customers can get to their desks, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to open the exchange," Louis Pastina, senior vice president for NYSE Euronext (NYX), said in a Bloomberg Television interview. "We'll have to gauge that in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other stock exchanges and our member firms."
The NYSE is in one of the low-lying areas being evacuated, and protective sand bags have been placed around the building accordingly.
[photo via Reuters]
4:50 p.m.: The New York Times reports, "President Obama to declare federal emergency in New York State in advance of Irene, granting request by Cuomo." The declaration authorizes the state to use FEMA disaster resources. And the timing is perfect. Just after the White House sent out the notification, the hurricane watch in place for New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts was upgraded to a hurricane warning.
Have no fear. The Atlantic Wire's own Adam Martin, a food-blogging veteran, has listed some ways to eat well during a hurricane. Of course:
Buy beer. If you're going to have to spend the whole weekend inside worrying, you're going to want some beer. So maybe you can't keep it cold after a while. You'll still be glad you bought it.
4:35 p.m.: New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke at a press conference earlier today and did not treat the evacuation topic lightly. "No one should be staying in their homes in a danger area because they feel that they can't leave without them," said Christie. "Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park and get out. You're done … You maximized your tan."
4:30 p.m.: As we mentioned earlier, Pepco placed some robocalls warning of Hurricane Irene-related power outages, and people living in the DC-area who received them got upset. The company has now responded to the outrage on their blog. We have doubts about the use of the word "empower":
We want to not only stay in line with the media reports, but to also empower our customers with as much beneficial information as possible to prepare best for the weekend. Today we activated an outbound call to all residential and small commercial customers. To summarize it, we just wanted to reiterate to our customers that the storm is nearing our service territory and the impact may result in outages for some customers.
To which, Bloomberg TV correspondent Lizzie O'Leary replied, "Pepco: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA. SORRY."
4:15 p.m.: With Delta canceling 1,300 flights and Amtrak closing lines south of Washington, don't even think about traveling along the East Coast this weekend. This is what it looks like in Hilton Head, South Carolina, courtesy of Patrice Malone:
4:05 p.m.: It's unclear if it's because folks are scared out of their minds or simply planning to throw a terrific Hurricane Irene party, but the line at Trader Joe's in Union Square is about a hundred feet long, says Steven Melfi:
New-ish New York resident Piers Morgan, for one, is spooked. "Hurricane #Irene is bigger than EUROPE. And heading straight for NYC. This is getting pretty scary," Morgan tweeted.
3:50 p.m.: This on-the-ground report from Early Show contributor Taryn Winter Brill on the rush to buy the cutest rainboots possible is probably the weirdest hurricane coverage we've seen yet. Best quote: "It's New York. The girls will pay for the boots."
3:45 p.m.: The New York Times Metro desk started a cool hashtag project: #ireneqanda. (We read that as "qwanda" the first three times we saw it.) In their own words: "NY'ers: What questions do you have about #nyc evacuation and hurricane prep? Use #ireneqanda. We'll try to answer them."
3:30 p.m.: A cliché watch is now in effect for all you bloggers making the "Come on, Irene!" joke. For all you bloggers not making that joke, watch Hurricane Irene grow from a bunch of clouds in the Caribbean to the storm of the century in just 14-seconds:
- Maud Newton at The Awl has offers "An Ex-Floridian's Hurricane Guide for New Yorkers. Main takeaway for hurricane newbies: "Do not, under any circumstances, use candles or kerosene lamps while the storm is in progress."
- Peter Svensson at the Associated Press rounded up some tips on how to stay connected after the hurricane hits. Executive summary: charge your phone, be prepared spotty reception, use a satellite phone if you can afford it.)
- Tanya Mohn at Forbes collected some emergency travel advice. Pro tip: Don't let the ticket agents push you around if you need to reschedule a ticket; you should be permitted if there's a warning in effect.
- Mike Madden at the Washington City Paper implores DC-area residents, "Do not go to CostCo." Seriously, look at this:
3:00 p.m.: Bad news, poker fans. New Jersey governor Chris Christie has ordered a halt to all gaming in Atlantic City at noon on Saturday; casino hotel guests "due to travel logistics problems will be permitted to stay in the hotels." Wall Street veteran and Business Insider founder Henry Blodget tweeted his reaction to the news, "Oh my. It IS serious."
The surfing is still awesome in North Carolina, by the way. It is also, however, even more dangerous than it was earlier.
[photo via Getty]
2:45 p.m.: North Carolina braces for impact as tropical storm winds reach the coast. Irene has calmed down to 100 mile-per-hour winds as opposed to the 110 and 120 mile-per-hour winds reported earlier.
Meanwhile, the mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas in New York City is underway. "Because MTA is shutting down at noon Saturday, NYers in Zone A who must evacuate should do so ASAP," tweeted the Mayor's office. Mayor Bloomberg clarified in a press conference that Riker's Island would not be evacuated. The mandatory evacuation order applies to 250,000 people.
1:55 p.m.: The New York City mayor's office has ordered a mandatory evacuation of all "low-lying" areas--hat means Zone A on this map. Residents must be out at 5 p.m. on Saturday. "We’ve never done a mandatory evacuation before – and we wouldn’t be doing this now if we didn’t think this was serious," the office tweeted. "If you are in Zone A, prepare to evacuate asap. Don’t be complacent. Even though the sun is shining now, don’t be fooled."
1:50 p.m.: We've got some updates on super market shortages. Meredith Shiner tweets, "My supermarket is out of 2-ltr bottles of Fresca, sour cream & onion PopChips, my preferred Luna bar flavor #WhatKindofSavagesAreWe?" Meredith Steele from The Wall Street Journal reports, "no batteries or flashlight in midtown manhattan..."
1:15 p.m.: Things are looking lonely at Nags Head beach in North Carolina. Brian Stelter from The New York Times tweets that there's "one family left."
1:05 p.m.: It's looking like it'll be a rough weekend in Gotham. The New York City government website has been crashing all day as residents rush to check on evacuation procedures--WNYC thankfully created their own, better map of the evacuation zones. Governor Andrew Cuomo just announced the dreaded subway closing:
The Metropolitan Transit Authority will institute a system-wide shut-down when trains and buses begin their final runs starting at approximately noon on Saturday; the shut-down will include subways, buses, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Access-A-Ride
A number of bridges in the New York area, including the George Washington and Tappan Zee bridges, will also be closed if winds exceed 60 MPH.
12:55 p.m.: President Obama will return to the White House from his vacation in Martha's Vineyard this afternoon, one day early. It's Irene's fault, of course. Michelle and his daughters will head back Saturday, as planned.
Elsewhere in the DC area, not even NASA has an advanced hurricane damage prevention system. Their Langley, Virginia tweeted this photo of their employees' preparation efforts:
12:35 p.m.: As Rhode Island joins the growing list of states that have declared a state of emergency, JetBlue has canceled 434 weekend flights to and from the East Coast according to The Wall Street Journal. Bloomberg earlier reported 880 JetBlue cancellations. Regardless of the number, JetBlue is the first airline to slash schedules in anticipation of Irene's landfall.
Meanwhile, souvenir shops in Nags Head, North Carolina are already selling survivor t-shirts. First-mover advantage?
[photo via Getty]
- "HURRICANE TIP: Repeatedly saying "Al Gore was right" won't un-shatter your front windows."
- "HURRICANE TIP: If you're stocking up on food simply because you want an excuse to eat Chef Boyardee products ... good for you."
- "HURRICANE TIP: No matter how cool it sounds, DO NOT go to the beach, don a pair of aviators, light a cigar and stare menacingly at the ocean."
12:20 p.m.: It seems like everybody has built an interactive Irene Tracking Map by now. Google's is the best. The blue zone is called the "uncertainty cone" and represents a margin of error for meteorologists' forecasts. You can click through on the photo below for a live version of the map. The "Layers" button is especially cool because it allows you to show or hide details on all kinds of things like cloud cover and storm surge possibilities.
11:55 a.m.: Sam Walker, a journalist in the Outer Banks, tweeted this photo from the local Coastal Cravings convenience store in Duck, North Carolina. "Jim C" is a reference to the Weather Channel's star storm chaser, who's apparently not welcome in North Caroline. Based on this jazzy video of Cantore packing his suitcase, we can kind of understand why.
11:35 a.m.: President Obama spoke briefly from Martha's Vineyard about Hurricane Irene preparedness. Three quick takeaways: the government will support states affected; Americans should take Irene seriously--"Don't wait. Don't Delay"; Irene will be a big one--"All indications point to this being a historic hurricane."
11:25 a.m.: And now, a brief guide to hurricane preparedness guides. Choire Sicha at The Awl gives us a Brooklyn-centric bullet list of advice. ("Move your hard drives up to the second floor. What if you lost all your early design work from RISD?") Brian Moylan at Gawker has some tips on how to keep yourself entertained. ("You can play with someone else whose stuck in the house or you can play Solitaire. Yes, it's just like on the computer, but with real live cards.") Matt Blum at Wired tailors his take for nerds, but he's got some practical tips too. ("If the police come by and tell you you need to evacuate, do it.")
From an entirely different approach, Alex Berg at The Daily Beast collected some a bunch of pretty funny videos of weather reporters trying to stay standing in hurricane-force winds.
Here's a real surfer riding a horrifying-looking 12-foot wave at Folly Beach, South Carolina. The expression on his face should serve as proof that East Coasters never see waves like this.
[photos via Getty]
11:05 a.m.: The "billions of dollars worth of damage" referred to above comes from a blog post by New York Times data wizard Nate Silver whose Friday morning blog post did little to soothe worried homeowners. It's worth quoting:
Apart from the inevitable loss of life in the most densely populated part of the country, history suggests that the economic damage could run into the tens of billions of dollars, depending on the severity of the storm and how close it comes to the city. Unlikely but theoretically plausible scenarios could have the damage entering the realm of the costliest natural disasters of all time, and perhaps being large enough to have a materially negative effect on the nation's gross domestic product.
This bit is more tailored to Irene's actual estimated impact:
The numbers do not paint a pretty picture. According the model, a hurricane with wind speeds of about 100 miles per hour--making it a “weak” Category 2 storm--might cause on the order of $35 billion in damage if it were to pass directly over Manhattan. Such a storm would probably flood New York’s subway system as well as acres upon acres of prime real estate in neighborhoods like the East Village, the Financial District, TriBeCa, Coney Island, Red Hook, Dumbo, as well as parts of Staten Island and most of the Rockaways.
10:50 a.m.: They're boarding up their windows and sending Irene spray-painted messages along the coast. (Did you know Home Depot is expecting record sales this weekend?) Conor Friedersdorf has collected a few photos like this over at The Atlantic:
10:35 a.m.: An Atlantic Wire envoy sent us a dispatch from the King Kullen grocery store in Bridgehampton, New York. Apparently, people there read our report about how coconut water's really not that good for you because it seems like that's all that's left in the bottled water and beverage aisle.
"All the Poland Spring is gone!" writes the envoy. "And everything else. I bought the last bottles of some no-name brand called Iceland."
10:25 a.m.: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Craig Fugate addressed reporters. "Could this be the East Coast's Hurricane Katrina?" asked one reporter.
"I think here in the District and all you guys that live here, here's what you need to prepare for: power outages that could last days or more… a lot of rain and flooding… strong gusty winds… flooding and flash flooding… very strong winds… a lot of trees down… a lot of powerlines down… and along the Potomac you're going to see storm surge potential," replied Fugate.
10:15 a.m.: Pepco offered an update to Washington D.C. residents a few minutes ago via robocall: "We strongly urge you to prepare now for the very real possibility of power outages this weekend."
"PEPCO's 'panic now!' robocalls are pretty awesome," tweeted Matthew Yglesias.
9:55 a.m.: In case you're not worried about the storm, Bloomberg would like you to know:
More than a dozen nuclear reactors along the U.S. East Coast are being prepared for potential loss of power and damage from high winds and storm surges as Hurricane Irene bears down on the region. Nuclear plants in Irene's path continued to operate as workers secured loose equipment, checked diesel fuel supplies for backup generators and stowed cots and food for workers who may be stranded during the storm.
9:25 a.m.: For lack of a better cliché, much of the East Coast is enjoying the calm before the storm. Employees of big-box retailers and supermarkets, on the other hand, are dealing with pure chaos. NPR reports that stores like Home Depot and Walmart have "deployed hundreds of trucks carrying everything from plywood to Pop-Tarts to stores in the storm's path" and they compare the command centers to NASA. "We've got all the key news agencies on the big screens up front," Home Depot's emergency response captain Russ Householder told NPR. "We're also monitoring our store sales so we can better be in tune to what's happening in our stores, and we're also connected live one-on-one with district managers in the impacted areas."
They're not complaining. As The Daily points out, retailers selling supplies see a big bump in sales when storms hit. "It’s in both stores’ interests to calculate anything and everything storm-ravaged people will need," reports Karen Keller. "When the rest of us brace for a hurricane, Home Depot sees a torrent of dollar signs."
The Weather Channel, meanwhile, sees a surge in ratings and traffic to their websites. "We don’t need to hype to get the ratings because people naturally come to us." Weather Channel president and CEO Michael J. Kelly told Adweek. "Do we have personalities and passionate presenters here? You bet, but if were calling something a 'massive hurricane,' it's because we want people to pay attention… we're calling it like we see it."
Everything looks incredibly peaceful from the International Space Station, however.