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Hurricane Irene Wreaks Havoc, but Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Delaware Avoid a Disaster


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The Tri-State area has survived the wrath of Hurricane Irene this weekend, despite facing a storm which was viewed by many as the worst tropical storm to hit the Northeast in 50 years. Added to that, record rainfall in August left the ground saturated and compromises the root systems of trees, leaving them vulnerable to falling over in high winds. This perfect storm set up a horrendous scenario where residents throughout South Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania would contend with raging floodwaters, downed trees, and powerlines.

For many of us who were lucky to have power we honkered down inside and watched storm coverage on CBS 3, 6 ABC, FOX 29, or NBC 10. I have to say NBC10 did an amazing job with their live Hurricane Irene coverage, by staying on the air literally from 5:00 AM Saturday morning until 6:30 Sunday evening, without a single break!

Residents from Delaware to New Jersey to Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs were spared from a worst-case scenario. Make no mistake, there was widespread damage from the storm and flooding in many areas including Manyunk and Collegeville, but the saving grace was the fact that this storm moved up the coast rather quickly. Main street in Manayunk looked like a river when the Schuylkill River crested at 2:00 P.M., but fortunately the floodwaters gradually ran off.

Had Hurricane Irene parked itself like Hurricane Agnes in 1972 - the Tri-State area would have been in serious trouble. There were predictions of 12, 15, even 20 inches of rain in certain parts of Delaware and South Jersey which would have meant the certain destruction of towns. Fortunately these predictions didn't come to fruition.

Delaware came out of the weekend relatively unscathed, with zero fatalities. A tornado did touch down, destroying homes, but there weren't any injuries reported.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania were hardest hit by the storm with PA residents getting the brunt of the rain due to the storm's track. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said Monday the list of counties requesting disaster assistance includes Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Wyoming and Wayne counties.

Some areas in New Jersey received 8 through 10 inches of rain, which is bad, but not as bad as originally predicted. One town in New Jersey (Freehold Township) reported 11 inches.  MyFoxPhilly has a full breakdown of the rainfall totals from Hurricane Irene for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland.

Sadly, at least 22 people in total were killed over the weekend in several states including two from our area. A woman died in Salem County New Jersey after dialing 911. And, another woman was killed on Sunday morning when she was stuck in her car while attempting to drive to work.

The unfortunate fact with any hurricane is that there will be casualties. Authorities can warn people all they want, but there will always be some people who leave their homes during these storms.

All told, the economic impact of Hurricane Irene will be far less than originally feared.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power though and could be for days.

There is an outside chance that the summer vacation season isn't completely over at the Jersey Shore. Workers will work at a breakneck pace to ready the beaches for the Labor Day weekend.

Governors Tom Corbett, Chris Christie, and Jack Markell did a masterful job in mobilizing their resources and getting as many people as possible to evacuate and stay away from harm's way this weekend.

Hurricane Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall in New Jersey in over 100 years.

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

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Flood photo from philadelphiaspeaks.com

Homepage photo from blog.NJ.com