08.30.11

Irene Ranks Among Costliest U.S. Disasters

Hurricane Irene is likely to rank among the top 10 most expensive U.S. disasters. See more updates and photos here.

Irene Ranks Among Costliest Storms Ever
Aug. 31, 2011 9:30 AM EDT

Maybe Hurricane Irene wasn’t overhyped after all: the storm is likely to rank among the 10 costliest catastrophes in U.S. history, according to The New York Times, with a pricetag of $7 billion to $10 billion. Flooding caused much of that damage, which means it won’t be covered by most insurance policies. Insurance companies normally cover half a storm’s costs but in this case they may cover less than 40 percent. Meanwhile, National Guard helicopters are transporting supplies into Vermont towns that have been cut off by the flooding. The town of Pittsfield held a barbecue as it waited.

Photos: Shocking Images of Vermont Floods
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John Curran / AP Photo

Man Swept in N.J. Sewer Line Killed
Aug. 30, 2011 11:35 PM EDT

Police on Tuesday night found the body of a man swept into sewer line by floodwaters earlier in the day. The man’s body reportedly was carried through the sewer pipe for two miles before being washed up at a nearby sewage treatment plant. Police said the man was washed into a manhole cover by floodwaters on his own property, where a landscape supply company, Shemin Nurseries, is located. Meanwhile, rising flood waters on Tuesday onn the Passaic River in New Jersey forced evacuations in Paterson and Wallington. The hurricane season is not over yet: Forecasters said Tuesday that Tropical Storm Katia is likely to become a hurricane by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

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FEMA's Disaster Account Dangerously Low
August 30, 2011 6:35 AM EDT

Hurricane Irene has caused billions of dollars in damage, but it's nothing special this year: It's the 10th natural disaster to rack up over $1 billion in damages in 2011 alone. With less than $800 million in its kitty, FEMA has had to temporarily shelve buliding projects from earlier disasters (going back to Katrina) in order to help. The agency is also facing a shortfall for the next budget year as high as $5 billion, even without including Irene's expenses. Though legislators have been aware of the impending budget problem, the White House has so far declined to ask for more funding. Plus, The Daily Beast's Daniel Stone and Laura Colarusso report on FEMA's budget disaster.

Gallery: Amazing Irene Photos
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Waves and storm surge pound the boardwalk and the beach as Hurricane Irene slams into Asbury Park, New Jersey in the early morning on Sunday. (Chip East / Reuters-Landov)

'Hurricane Killer' Found Dead
Aug. 29, 2011, 6:44 AM EDT

A soldier suspected of killing four people in suburban Philadelphia has been found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities were on the hunt for John Egland, 37, after they suspected him of killing his ex-wife, her boyfriend, the boyfriend’s son, and his former mother-in-law as Hurricane Irene swept the coast. Local residents were asked to lock themselves indoors as two commando teams searched the area, eventually finding his body with the rifle and pistol he had used to fire at police 10 hours earlier. Egland had recently returned from his third deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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CJ Gunther / Landov
Video: Flooding in Brattleboro, Vermont
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Apocalypse When?
Aug. 28, 2011, 12:47 PM EDT
By Lee Siegel

I am, at the moment, sitting in my suburban–New Jersey home surrounded by $50 worth of candles, $40 worth of canned goods, five flashlights, four dozen batteries, 10 books of matches, enough bottled water to irrigate a small desert, windows plastered with duct tape, and our 5-year-old son dashing around the house wearing a plastic firefighter’s hat and strangely exhorting his bewildered 11-month-old sister to hold her breath. Yet as I sit prepared for what newscasters are still calling the “monster storm of the century,” and President Obama himself proclaimed a “historic hurricane,” the weather event of the century is being downgraded into a run-of-the-mill tropical storm, the rain has stopped, and the sun is out.

I have one question: Apocalypse … when?

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At East End Avenue and 85th Street in New York City (Marie Brenner)

Bloomberg: I Made Right Calls
Aug. 28, 2011, 3:30 PM EDT

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he thinks the city made the right decisions in preparing for Irene. The hurricane is now a tropical storm, and it lost some steam when it hit the city Sunday morning, making landfall in Coney Island. But Bloomberg said it was better to prepare for the worst, justifying his decisions to shut down the subway system and order mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas. He made the comment as reporters were briefly allowed into a city meeting, and the mayor praised city residents, saying they really cooperated.

A Hurricane of Hype
Aug. 28, 2011, 11:15 AM EDT
By Howard Kurtz

It was raining in Manhattan on Sunday morning, and the dogged correspondents in their brightly colored windbreakers were getting wet.

But the apocalypse that cable television had been trumpeting had failed to materialize. And at 9 a.m., you could almost hear the air come out of the media’s hot-air balloon of constant coverage when Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm.

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Video: Waves Wash Away Guard Tower
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Authorities Assess Storm Damage in the South
Aug. 28, 2011, 7:40 AM EDT

It's not over yet, but for areas it's passed through Hurricane Irene fell short of the doomsday predictions of record-breaking storm surges in North Carolina and Virginia. But the slowly moving storm still broke flooding records along the East Coast. Irene inflicted scattered damage over a broad area, so the total damage is not yet known. Authorities said teams would be deployed Sunday—particularly to remote areas—to assess the extent of damages. A high number of insurance claims is expected, and experts recommended tips for filing: documentation is particularly important; keep a video or picture inventory of your property; keep receipts for repair estimates and costs that may be reimbursed.

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A buoy that sits at the end of the Ocean City jetty is toppled by heavy surf as Hurricane Irene passes through Maryland on Aug. 27 (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)