Irene Weakens – Downgraded to Tropical Storm

Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm this morning.

The center of Irene moved over New York City at 9:00 AM EST.

Voice of America reported on the downgraded storm.

Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but continues to pound the U.S. east coast with heavy rains and strong winds as it moves over New York City.

The storm made landfall in North Carolina Saturday morning. It has killed at least eight people and paralyzed ground and air traffic in its journey up the eastern U.S. coast.

The National Hurricane Center says Irene is approaching New York with winds of 120 kilometers per hour. Forecasters say the upper floors of the city’s many high-rise buildings will experience significantly stronger winds than at ground level. Water levels are expected to rise as much as two and a-half meters, posing a problem for Manhattan’s low-lying areas such as Battery Park, on the tip of the island.

Part of an underground traffic tunnel leading into the city has been closed because of flooding. The East and Hudson rivers surrounding the island of Manhattan have overflowed and some streets are flooded.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has predicted record-level flooding for parts of his coastal state.

Forecasters say Irene will move into southern New England by Sunday afternoon before reaching Canada Sunday night.

Effects of the storm have forced two nuclear reactors to cease operations – one in Maryland and one in New Jersey. Authorities say the facilities are safe, and no one has been harmed.

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