By Ria Novosti
Ferocious hurricane Irene battered New York with torrential rains and severe winds early on Sunday, reducing the city to a ghost town and causing massive power blackouts as it churned slowly northward along the East Coast, U.S. media said.
New York City, land of hustle and bustle, turned eerily quiet ahead of the storm.
In his final address on Saturday night at 10.30 pm, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a tornado warning was in effect for New York and that the time for evacuation was over. People now had to leave the streets, he said.
Irene, still a menacing 480-mile (780-km)-wide hurricane, was enveloping major centers in the northeast, threatening dangerous floods and surging tides. Winds of up to 115 miles per hour whipped across the Eastern Seaboard, ripping power lines from poles and snapping trees in half. Hospitals, emergency call centers and other crucial facilities were holding up, but officials said it could get much worse as Irene churns north.
As many as 65 million people along the densely populated East Coast may be affected by the hurricane.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast, the Category I storm is likely to weaken to a post-tropical cyclone late on Sunday or early on Monday.