Hurricane Irene update: Storm claims its first lives

Hurricane Irene has caused a reported four deaths so far. Officials warn that storm surges and flooding could be greater because of the new moon arriving Sunday night.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Melissa Seagraves walks with her daughter Erika, 5, along the Cape May, New Jersey, coast Saturday before Hurricane Irene arrives. Seagraves chose not to heed the mandatory evacuation order for Cape May in order to stay with her family, pets, and property.

Hurricane Irene now has caused the loss of several lives as it works its way north to New York and New England.

According to published reports, those include three in North Carolina and one in Virginia.

A motorist lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree, a man feeding livestock was struck by a tree limb, a man collapsed and died as he put plywood over his windows, and a boy was killed when a tree crashed into an apartment complex, reports CNN.

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"This is a storm where, if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, it could be fatal," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference Saturday afternoon.

Although Irene was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, there’s another natural event that’s expected to exacerbate the potential for property damage and personal injury: the arrival of a new moon Sunday night.

During new and full moons, the gravitational pull between the earth and the moon intensifies, causing lower low tides and higher high tides. This can increase the power and level of storm surges flooding low-lying areas.

The storm surge from Hurricane Irene combined with the highest tides of the month could make Irene "the storm of a lifetime" for Tidewater Virginians, Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday, according to the Associated Press. The high tides and a surge of 3 to 6 feet would push water throughout Chesapeake Bay 8 to 9 feet over its mean level, Gov. McDonnell said.

New Jersey faces a similar situation.

The arrival of hurricane Irene could mean that close to 70 percent of Hoboken's streets will be under water during Sunday's predicted storm, reports Claire Moses at

“On top of rain and wind, the Hudson River's tide will be at 5.6 feet above sea level on Sunday night, said Executive Director of the North Hudson Sewage Authority Fred Pocci. Irene is supposed to arrive in our region around that time,” Ms. Moses wrote. “This is one of the highest tides of the year, Pocci explained. A low tide will return on Monday around 3:15 a.m., he said, at which point flood water will recede.”

Farther north, Hingham, Mass. is expecting tides of 13-14 feet Sunday.

“It will be a significant event for us,” Town Administrator Ted Alexiades told the Boston Globe.

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