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Hurricane Irene downgraded to tropical storm

August 28, 2011 |  6:45 am

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Hurricane Irene became a tropical storm Sunday as it made landfall in New York City, sending the sea across the Coney Island boardwalk and rapids running down some low-lying streets in Manhattan and other boroughs.

The National Hurricane Center said the winds were 65 mph when Irene arrived in New York at about 9 a.m., more than 24 hours after making its first landfall in North Carolina. Though the storm was far weaker than on Saturday, it still had the capacity to wreak widespread damage as it snaked upward to New England. At a morning news briefing, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said one person had died in a house fire blamed on wires felled by high winds. That brought to 10 the number of deaths attributed to Irene. More than 400,000 people were without power there, and some major roads in the state were closed because of the danger of flying debris such as branches.

In lower Manhattan, on the waterfront beneath the Manhattan Bridge, a mattress floated down water rippling about four-feet deep along one avenue. Onlookers, defying Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pleas to stay inside until the storm had passed, couldn’t resist the temptation to emerge with cameras to watch the action. One of them was Ray Santana, who was wandering around in his sandals and seemed unfazed by the scene.

“It’s not that bad,” he said.

PHOTOS: In the path of Irene

Nearby, a family splashed around in the water.

Water was lapping over the walls near the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. But so far, there were no indications of massive flooding around Battery Park City or some of the other areas under mandatory evacuation orders. In some beach areas of Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn, salt water rivers poured in from the sea.

Even as the storm appeared to be passing the region, there could be more to come. The Hurricane Center on Sunday announced that Tropical Storm Jose had just formed in the Atlantic.

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N.C. expected flooding from Irene -- and got it

--Tina Susman in New York

Photo: Stranded cars are seen in flood waters in lower Manhattan as Irene closed in on the New York City area. Credit: Mike Segar / Reuters.

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