Now A Tropical Storm, Irene Bears Down On Mass.

By WGBH Staff & Wires

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Aug. 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene is seen Sunday morning. (via Weather Underground)

BOSTON — Rain and winds bore down on Massachusetts on Sunday morning as Irene, now downgraded to a tropical storm, barreled its way up the East Coast. 

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All MBTA service was halted because of the storm and, by Sunday morning, thousands of customers in Massachusetts were without power. Parts of the state were under a flooding advisory Sunday morning (see more), with brief-but-torrential rains expected to affect the state by noon. Widespread wind damage was also predicted across the state, and forecasters identified the possibility of isolated tornadoes near the south coast.

Forecasters said five to ten inches of rain were possible in Western Massachusetts, with three to six inches predicted further east.

For full forecasts, check Weather Underground or you local forecast at the National Weather Service.

Five hundred National Guard troops were activated Friday with an additional 2,000 expected to be ready on Saturday.

Gov. Patrick said the state is taking a number of additional steps to prepare for potential flooding and power outages. Reservoirs are being drawn down to help absorb rainfall and  state officials are coordinating with utility companies to make sure they are ready in the event of widespread blackouts.

Patrick urged Massachusetts residents to be prepared, too. "Make sure that you have supplies on hand: Food, water, flashlights, batteries. If you need medications, make sure you have enough to last a copule of days," Patrick said. "And I'd ask you to check in on an elderly or infirm or vulnerable neighbor just to make sure that they are okay as well."

Patrick said the storm will affect the entire state, but he's particularly worried about Western Massachusetts, where tornados left devastation in some towns earlier this year.

"The track suggests that the whole of the commonwealth will be affected. Not just a region, but the whole of the commonwealth. It’s also concerning to me that the point of first impact in Mass. is likely to be in Springfield area — so right through the path of the tornado of June 1,” Patrick said.

The hurricane is forecast to pass North Carolina on Saturday, where it could do serious damage as a Category 2 storm. New York City ordered mandatory evacuations of low-lying areas and made plans to shutter its subway system in advance of the storm. Irene is expected to be in Southern New England by Sunday, though forecasters predict that in some areas it will by then have weakened to a tropical storm.

"People in Southern New England should prepare for the possibility of strong winds and heavy rainfall, as well as the possibility of coastal flooding," read a warning from the National Weather Service.

Peter Judge, of Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said people should prepare for all contingencies.

"Prepare for potentially losing your power, and prepare for a flooding event, so take the proper steps as you normally would under those circumstances," Judge said.




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