Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene risk forces US shutdown

For all of us in the UK the weather is the hot topic of conversation, an icebreaker, a way to chat to strangers, something to say when there is really nothing to say.

We have our headline weather, our floods and tornadoes. They wreck lives and homes and cost insurers millions; but can you imagine a storm so severe that is projected to effect 65 million people? Weather becomes a matter for serious discussion.

President Barack Obama is having these serious discussions right now. Hurricane Irene is currently looming off the east coast of the US with seven states including North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut declaring emergencies ahead of her arrival. It is thought that she will take a path from Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston - the most densely populated corridor in America.

Irene is expected to hit the coast of North Carolina on Saturday before barrelling northwards to Washington and New York City a day later. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and in low lying areas of the nation's biggest city, New York.

The storm is already causing transport problems ahead of her arrival. In New York the state's transport network including the New York City subway will close from midday in Saturday. Meanwhile Amtrak, America's passenger rail service, announced it was cancelling train travel south of Washington on the east coast, and airlines have predicted widespread disruptions to flights.

Irene may be an unwelcome guest, but with force winds extending 90 miles from her centre, and tropical storm winds reaching up to 290 miles from the eye, she's someone you just don't mess with.

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