East Coast economy braces for hurricane

Irene is already turning into a rare and extraordinary storm that will batter the region all the way to New England.

By Kim Peterson Aug 25, 2011 1:52PM

Updated Friday, 12:30 p.m. ET

The East Coast has begun seeing rains from Hurricane Irene, one of the most extraordinary storms to hit the country in recent history.

The storm's core is expected to hit the North Carolina coast Friday night, and by Sunday morning, it could be within miles of the New York. New York City has already evacuated nursing homes and hospitals in areas likely to be hit with storm surges.


But the region caught a small break Friday morning.

Post continues below video:

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Irene to Category 2 from Category 3 as its wind gusts dropped somewhat. But the center warned that winds could pick up again later Friday. Though hurricanes are extremely difficult to predict, states are preparing for flooding, outages and other effects.

"This potentially could be extremely destructive, with massive disruptions to society and commerce along its entire track," the NOAA says in a recent warning.

In other words, the economy can expect yet another blow. In fact, one company says the state of Connecticut alone could suffer $1 billion in insured losses and Rhode Island as much as $1.9 billion. But the total economic impact is still unclear. High winds are expected, and residents could also see storm surges, ocean overwash, beach erosion, flooding and extreme tides, the NOAA warns.

Here are some ways the hurricane could damage the U.S. economy:
  • Power outages: The electricity infrastructure "will be greatly compromised for millions, if not tens of millions, of Americans," The Weather Channel reports. Those outages could bring the economy nearly to a standstill.
  • Flooding: Widespread heavy rain of as much as 10 inches will be common, greatly increasing the potential for inland floods. And the Northeast isn't ready for that kind of flooding; some parts, especially New Jersey, have tree root systems that are vulnerable after recent heavy rains, The Star-Ledger notes. Amtrak has already canceled train service south of Washington this weekend, but it could add more cancellations if necessary.
  • High water: The water levels could rise around bays and sounds, to the point where new high water marks could be set. That could cause flooding and other damage to businesses and homes directly on the coast. And wouldn't you know it, the hurricane coincides with the new moon, when tides are already higher than normal.
The extent of the economic impact may rest on which direction Irene goes. A slight eastward shift could mean more showers and less damage, the Post reports, while a westward shift would bring damaging wind gusts, widespread power outages and major flooding to large cities in the mid-Atlantic. Indeed, a shift West on Thursday night meant worse damage predictions.

Emergency plans are in effect. A coastal county in North Carolina is evacuating residents, while areas in Maryland and other states are telling residents to prepare for a possible evacuation. "We're telling people, 'Listen, take today and tomorrow to prepare. Don’t wait.'" a New Jersey police sergeant tells the Star-Ledger. "Have a full tank of gas, plenty of food in the house, blankets and clothes in your car. Make sure you’re prepared just in case."

Reuters has a good hurricane updates site here.

Aug 25, 2011 3:00PM

It appears now they will blame the economy on the weather…huh?  If the greedy politicians, etc. took care of their States and Cities… just maybe they would have the money to repair the damages from Hurricanes, earthquakes etc.  Obviously they spent it, or shoved it in their own pockets!

Aug 26, 2011 10:50AM
Is anyone serious on here?   If (if is a big word) this hurricane actually strike the coastline, the results could be catstrophic, and you have people making jokes about it!!!   Injuries, possible loss of lives, damage, etc., etc., is hardly funny to those who will experience it, and have experienced it.  As far as the Obama-Bush Debate goes.......everybody in America knows the state of the economy, and it didn't happen overnight.   We have allowed this to happen over a long, long period of time, and just about every President, Senator and Congressman or Congresswoman can take some of the blame.   We allowed this Country to be saturated with foreign products, then a large majority purchased these products, ignoring our own American made.   We allowed companies to move to third world countries, gave them tax breaks and then allowed them to sell to our citizens.   Wake up people!!!!  What are you driving?
Aug 26, 2011 12:19PM
I just can't let this economy discussion end.   To those of us who have paid attention, it's very clear how the economy took all these bad turns.  Wall Street stock manipulators, tons and tons of bad loans by the banks, and mortgage companies, foreign products saturation, and on and on.   I experienced, first hand, what happens when things go bad, and there is a lot of blame to go around.  The people in this Country need to wake up!!!!   We have 47 million people on food stamps, just so they can eat.   Stop buying the damned foreign products and invest in America.   Help America get on it's feet, and the World will follow.   Stop blaming everyone and do something yourself, today.   Help your neighbor, lend a hand to a returning veteran's family.  Know a needy family?  Personally, lend them a hand.  This country's in trouble...instead of bitching about it....do something to help....finger-pointing is useless, using your helping hands and your brain gets a lot more accomplished, and you can actually take pride in what follows.
Aug 26, 2011 12:36PM

So I just heard this morning that gas will be rising immediately at the pumps due to Hurricane Irene because they may have to turn off a few of the refineries in New Jersey which account for virtually nothing in the scope of things.  Isn't it interesting that when Oil fell to $79 a barrel a couple of weeks ago the consumer would not see any savings for at least 4 weeks at the pumps because those were "futures prices/contracts" & it takes time to trickle down but now we are told gas prices are going up immediately with Irene.  Shouldn't this take at least 4 weeks to trickle up or are we once again being jerked around by Wall Street & Speculators???

How about Washington or some reporters doing a full scale investigation on this & publish what we already know...we are being screwed!!!

Aug 26, 2011 11:15AM
I hope that there will be reports about how much money other countries will send to the US in the face of a natural disaster.  We've been giving out so much to others, I hope others will give to us.
Aug 26, 2011 10:45AM

I had a small construction business before I retired. Every time there was a storm of some type and it did damage I saw green along with all the other contractors out there. I don’t believe one bit it can hurt our economy it can only help.

Now the only thing I am wondering is who do we want to take credit for this, the Dem’s or Rep’s?… lol

Aug 26, 2011 10:30AM
Why must you try to bring down our nation with your negative columns?  I actually believe any time you have destruction money is spent and rebuilding does stimulate the economy
Aug 26, 2011 10:25AM

The hurricaine cannot possible hurt our economy as much as this President and his administration have! Biggest bunch of losers since the Carter administration.

I'm sure it's Bush's fault.....

Aug 26, 2011 10:01AM

Actually repairs and rebuilding could help stimulate the economy

Aug 26, 2011 10:21AM
Something else for Obama to blame his failure and incompetence upon!
Aug 26, 2011 10:13AM
oh i can see it now here come the slime bags to run up the price of gas some more something new to blame. man paying a 40% traders tax on gas is insanity on steroids
Aug 26, 2011 3:50PM
It might help the economy.  Think of all the new roofs, houses boats that may have to be purchased to rebuild.  Essentially taking money from our friends in the insurance industry and transfering it to real products
Aug 26, 2011 10:57AM
Seems like if anything the hurricane would help the economy. Yeah, the insurance companies will have "losses", but isn't this the reason we pay premiums? Their investment folks are probably the ones who have driven up the price of oil and gold with their speculation. Think of the land office business that contractors and home improvement stores like Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. will do. If anything is is taking money that the insurance companies are just sitting on and actually putting it into circulation.
Aug 25, 2011 2:33PM
Looks like more BAD LUCK for Obama. I'm sure he'll be BLAMING the storm on the Tea Party!
Aug 26, 2011 10:20AM

Oh noooooooooo!!! Another excuse for obozo's failed presidency.

Aug 26, 2011 2:01PM
This hurricane may be the best stimulant for the economy as we will rebuild the damage caused creating needed jobs.  We would be better served rebuilding the US than Afghanistan or Iraq.  
Aug 26, 2011 10:44AM

Good lord.  When you wake up and realize that the media is covering for Obama to no end, articles like this are not surprising.  Maybe if we weren't 14+ trillion in debt, we wouldn't have to worry so much about what a hurricane could do to our economy.


Republicans and Democrats both share the blame for the state we are in.  I'm done listening to politicians who say "this isn't my fault".  I'M SO SICK OF THE EXCUSES!  If you don't have a CONSTITUTIONAL solution to help American's out, get the hell out of the way.  This president is an empty suit who is banking on people being too stupid to see the damage he is causing.


God bless all in the way of this storm.  Best wishes, and stay safe.

Aug 26, 2011 1:23PM
What the hell, people.. why are you all changing the subject from a hurricane on the east coast, to gas prices, government lashings, leaders, and Obama!???  WTF seriously, I would love to line you all up who do this and deliver **** kickings right across the board.. this is supposed to be for postings on the weather, and this hurricane that is going to make life change for millions of people with their homes, and lives.  In other words, this storm is going to be hell, but instead of thinking about sending a prayer for all those people, some of you decide to complain about gas, and Obama... GROW UP! 

The Size 18 foot

Aug 26, 2011 2:48PM

A hurricane! Just the excuse they were looking for to raise gas prices again....here we go again!


Aug 26, 2011 10:39AM
Ms. D is right. It will actually help the fumbling construction portion of the economy. More shoot from the hip reporting to panic the economy. STOP already!
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