Emergency crews in the eastern United States are still working to help people
affected by Hurricane Irene. The hurricane struck the coast of North Carolina
with winds of up to one hundred twenty kilometers an hour last Saturday. The
storm weakened as it moved north. But Irene brought heavy rains and destructive
winds to the densely populated east coast.
Hundreds of thousands of people were told to leave areas likely to suffer
flooding. That included parts of New York City where Mayor Michael Bloomberg
ordered over two hundred fifty thousand people to evacuate.
Irene is blamed for more than forty deaths in the United States. Five deaths
were reported in the Caribbean.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo estimated his state suffered one billion dollars
in damage. Estimates place the total damage from the storm at about seven
billion dollars. Insurance companies are expected to pay forty to fifty percent
of these costs. But costs of lost trade for the travel industry, especially in
North Carolina, will be high at a time when the nation’s economy is struggling.
The government reported Friday that the national unemployment rate held at nine
point one percent in August.
High winds and flooding from Irene brought down electrical lines, causing about
four million people to lose power. Days after the storm, hundreds of thousands
were still without electricity.
Many states in the path of Irene declared disasters. Governors in several states
activated over four thousand National Guard members to help in rescue and relief
In North Carolina, some communities near the ocean were flooded and cut off from
the mainland. And the small northeastern state of Vermont was especially hard
hit. Emergency workers have had to airlift food and supplies to thousands of
people trapped by flood waters. Officials said it was the worst flooding in
Vermont in almost one hundred years. This man describes what he saw in the
community of Woodstock.
MICHAEL RICCI: “The water in the yard was almost up to the house, which is
another ten feet above this level, which is probably fifteen or twenty feet
above the normal river level. So the water was really, really up very high. And
the force of it was beyond our comprehension.”
President Obama has made major disaster declarations for North Carolina, New
York, New Jersey, Vermont and Puerto Rico. Emergency declarations were made for
all coastal states from North Carolina to Maine. These declarations release
federal aid through FEMA -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Roger Pielke is a professor in environmental studies at the University of
Colorado. He says the economic costs of hurricanes have grown many times over
the years. This is because millions of people in the United States have crowded
coastal areas that are often affected by storms.
ROGER PIELKE: “Along the entire coast from Texas all the way up through Maine in
the United States, there are today very few locations where a hurricane can make
landfall without causing an enormous amount of damage.”
Still, Roger Pielke credits stronger building rules and better weather
predictions for saving lives and limiting costs.
Irene is unlikely to be the only major hurricane this year. Two powerful storms
are threatening the coastal United States. One is nearing the Gulf of Mexico,
the other is in the Atlantic Ocean.
September is normally the most active month of the hurricane season. Experts
predicted eight to ten hurricanes in two thousand eleven. That is higher than
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. For transcripts and mp3 of our
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VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.