Irene Could Have Been Worse

A tree landed on top of Sen. Raymond Lesniak's Irvington Avenue home in Elizabeth. The lawmaker was spared structural damage or injury.

From North Carolina to New Jersey, Hurricane Irene’s winds and storm surge fell short of the doomsday predictions but the danger is far from over as rising rivers threaten severe flooding across much of the affected region over the next few days.

With winds at 75 mph at the time, Category 1 Hurricane Irene struck New Jersey at 5:35 a.m. Sunday near Little Egg Inlet, the first hurricane landfall in the state since 1903.

Irene was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm as it traversed New Jersey on Sunday, winding up its four-day assault upon the eastern seaboard.

Along the way, Irene struck 13 states, causing an unknown amount of destruction. More than 4.5 million homes and businesses along the East Coast lost power, and at least 23 deaths were attributed to the storm, including four in New Jersey.

At least 300 different road closures or obstructions were reported across the state. Power lines were pulled down as this uprooted tree formed a neat roadblock.

Residents tried to return home Monday to assess the damage but dangerous floodwaters still threatened communities across New Jersey after Irene pounded the state with rain and heavy winds — inundating towns and turning normally quiet streams into raging rapids.

The number of homes and businesses in the Garden State without power nearly reached one million, with as many as 775,000 still disconnected on Sunday night.

Some residents will wait a week before utilities are restored, but most came back online by Monday morning.

Gov. Chris Christie talks to Dawn Farrell, 16, of Somers Point while visiting evacuees sheltered from Hurricane Irene at Rutgers University in Piscataway on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011. (Photo credit Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Across the state, 15,000 people were housed during the storm in more than 53 shelters. which will continue to provide food and water today.

The state Departments of Agriculture and Education are working to coordinate additional evacuation shelters in case of inland flooding. A flood and power outage was reported at the emergency shelter set up at Holmdel High School.

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