The magnitude and power of Hurricane Irene could be so massive that it has the potential to inflict damage upon communities far inland from the Atlantic Coast.
This is not just a coastal event, said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Craig Fugate at a media conference on Friday morning. We’re going to have a coastal issue as well as an inland issue.
According to forecasters, areas many miles from the northwestern shoreline could be bombarded with as much as ten inches of rain, promoting fears of flash-floods, impassable roads, downed electric power lines and dangers posed by collapsing trees.
Some northeastern Cities have already been hit with heavy rainfall this month. For example, the city of Philadelphia (located about 60 miles from the coast of New Jersey), which has received 13 inches of rain in August, will surely set a new record for monthly rainfall before the weekend is out.
The director of the National Hurricane Center Bill Read warned: “There’s going to be a huge swath of 5 to 10 inches of rain through the densely populated Northeast corridor, where we’ve had almost 300 to 600 percent of normal rain in the last 30 days.”
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While many states on the Atlantic Coast have already issued evacuation orders to residents on the shore and set up emergency contingencies, Fugate reminds that people further inland must also be vigilant to the storm’s path.
For example, ruined power lines may not be restored for days, or even weeks, after the storm has passed – potentially inconveniencing millions of people, particularly the elderly and the rural population.
Indeed, after Hurricane Gloria in 1985, some residents of Long Island, New York were without power for eight days.
It is believed that about 65-million people (one-fifth of the nation’s entire population) will, in some way, be impacted by Irene.
That’s why we are telling people not just along the coast but well inland to be prepared, he said.