Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers had evacuated homes near the shore. At least one hospital closed, moving patients to locations farther from sources of flooding. The citys vast subway and bus system halted operations for the duration of the storm.
Water levels rose rapidly, with nearly four-foot storm surges reported Sunday morning at Sandy Hook, N.J., Cape May, N.J., and the famed New York Harbor.
Atop of that came the rain, up to 15 inches of it, a major source of anxiety, especially inland.
These rains, combined with heavy rain over the past few weeks, could cause widespread flooding, life-threatening flash floods and significant uprooting of trees due to rain-softened grounds, said hurricane forecaster Michael Brennan.
As if he and his colleagues didnt have enough to worry about, Tropical Storm Jose developed Sunday morning in the Atlantic, south of Bermuda. It bypassed Bermuda and did not endanger the U.S. coast.
Irenes first landfall came Saturday along North Carolinas Outer Banks, the storm crawling northeastward up the coast. The full extent of the damage still was not clear, with officials of some areas in the Carolinas and Virginia said the impact seemed to be less than expected, though others were still assessing local conditions.
In North Carolina, authorities mounted scores of operations to rescue people trapped by floods. The storm led to 100 swift-water rescues in Craven County and 26 people were rescued Saturday in Pamlico County, including two pregnant women and a pair of infants. Water rose so high there that the National Guard couldn't get through in pickup trucks, leaving some residents without aid until Sunday morning.
Heavy winds collapsed a mall roof in Wayne County and peeled away the roof of the countys emergency 911 center. In Beaufort County, crews pulled a man from waist-high water after the walls of his mobile home collapsed.
"We've taken a hard hit," said Assistant Wayne County Manager Jack Veit.
Between New Bern and Washington, N.C., the smell of freshly split wood was prominent along U.S. 17. More than 100 50-to-60-foot trees had fallen many taking power lines with them.
Kevin McKnight of New Bern was headed to Greenville when he tried to drive around a downed tree and through a muddy ditch with his Lexus SUV.
"I thought I could make it with my four-wheel drive," he said.
He couldn't. The Lexus ended up partially in water and partially in mud, awaiting a tow truck.
In Washington, N.C., which sits along the Pamlico River, the clock on the old courthouse on Market Street remained stuck at 7:21 a.m.
It was at that moment that the power failed on Saturday.