29 Aug 2011

Powerful storm moves away from battered US coast

10:52 pm on 29 August 2011

Officials in the United States have warned that the storm that has been lashing the country's eastern seaboard remains a threat despite being downgraded from hurricane strength.

Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina on Saturday and has been linked to the deaths of at least 21 people as it swept northwards.

Many of the deaths were in North Carolina and Virginia, and in Pennsylvania where four deaths occurred including including two men crushed by falling trees.

As recovery efforts were under way on Sunday in states throughout the northeast of America the tropical storm was still bringing 100 km/h wind to the New England region.

Speaking at the White House press conference, President Barack Obama said the impact of the storm would be felt for some time and the clean-up process would not be easy.

Virginia's governor, Bob McDonnell, says he anticipates problems continuing in his state for some time.

Officials in New Jersey say they are dealing with a lot of flooding and expect a damage bill amounting to billions of dollars.

The state's governor, Chris Christie, said electricity supplies were cut to more than half a million people and flooding would continue for a couple of days.

New York avoided the worst of the severe weather system, with the predicted storm surge not eventuating, though there was flooding in some low-lying parts of the city.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who were evacuated before the storm approached were told they could return to their homes.

Air travel in and out of New York area airports remained suspended on Sunday.

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the fact that people heeded the advice of emergency management officials has significantly reduced loss of life.