Already a killer storm, Hurricane Irene sloshed into the New York metropolitan area Sunday, adhering to a course that pushed mountains of seawater - and vast volumes of rain - into the city, many of its suburbs and much of the surrounding region.
"The flooding will be epic and there will be water in places you never dreamed," said forecaster Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Even before Irene reached one of the nation's most heavily populated regions, at least eight deaths were attributed to the storm, a summer weekend terror that clung to, ravaged and swamped the East Coast from North Carolina all the way to New England.
Outages cut power to more than two million customers, complicating efforts to prepare for or recover from the storm. Trees crashed to the ground and roofs flew away and sea water invaded buildings once thought safely distant from the coast.
Meteorologists said Irene's core made a second landfall near Little Egg Inlet, N.J., north of Atlantic City, at 5:35 a.m. Sunday, as a minimal Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph sustained wind. It weakened slightly into a high-end tropical storm as the center reached New York City at 9 a.m., with 65 mph wind.
Irene's course carried the center right along New Jersey's coast, completely through or perilously close to the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and then into Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and points north. Tornado warnings flashed through the region.
Manhattan's usually busy streets were eerily empty, few people in sight, the entire city pounded by gray sheets of rain and bursts of wind that swirled around tall buildings and sought paths of escape. Rising water blocked several roads and intersections.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers evacuated homes near the shore. At least one hospital closed, moving patients to locations farther from sources of flooding. The city's vast subway and ...