Downgraded to tropical storm, Irene rains down on New York

Downgraded to tropical storm, Irene rains down on New York

Irene weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Sunday, with winds of 95 kilometres per hour, bringing torrential rain to New York City and other areas of the northeastern United States, dpa reported.

President Barack Obama was briefed Sunday morning on the response and recovery efforts underway, and the status of critical energy and transportation infrastructure in impacted areas, the White House said in a statement.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Sunday that the worst of the storm had passed for much of the East Coast, but cautioned that communities still in the path of Irene should remain vigilant.

More than 6,000 flights were canceled Sunday, most in the New York area, Boston and Philadelphia, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing tracking website FlightStats.com.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie warned Sunday: "Do not leave your homes ... It is still not safe." He told CNN, "We've got flooding everywhere and flash flooding in all different parts of the state."

The National Hurricane Center's director, Bill Read, told CNN that the effects of the storm had not changed - winds continued to be strong, the rain was still falling and Irene was continuing to push water levels up along the coastline.

But the centre said that Irene was forecast to weaken and become a post-tropical cyclone by Sunday night. Between 10-30 centimetres of rain were expected and the hurricane centre warned of "life-threatening flash floods ... and significant uprooting of trees."

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Jose was nearing Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometres per hour, and was moving northwards.

CNN reported that Irene had knocked out power to more than 3 million people and was responsible for at least 15 deaths in five states.

Manhattan island was seeing some flooding both on the East River side as well as on the Hudson River on the west side, with the waters reaching the western part of Greenwich Village and the north-south running 10th Avenue. Battery Park on Manhattan's southern tip was also under water.

Earlier, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral William Lee said that the damage inflicted by then-hurricane Irene on North Carolina, where it first made landfall, was less than expected.

"All in all, the damage wasn't nearly as bad as we had expected," Lee told CNN after surveying the coastline by helicopter. "Very few trees were down. I saw evidence of minor flooding."

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