Dozens of dead across North America

Crossing the Canadian border on Sunday, the former Hurricane Irene was still packing plenty of punches as she continued her sweep up the coastline, downing power lines, washing away roads and claiming at least one more victim.

Further south in the USA, more than 40 storm-related fatalities are known of so far, including a father of 13 who left his New York home to check on his boat in a marina. 300,000 people had been evacuated from the lowest-lying parts of the city.

Even though the hurricane ‘only’ reached category 3 at its strongest, the sheer size of the slow-moving storm meant that most of the Eastern Seaboard, from North Carolina up to landlocked Vermont, saw significant damage.

Irene had previously caused havoc and as yet unknown numbers of deaths across the Caribbean, at least sideswiping the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, before cutting straight through the low-lying Bahamas.

Excellent communications in the run-up meant preparation warnings were largely heeded, with most boat owners having sufficient notice to secure or remove their vessels, however the US insurance industry’s early estimates still have the cost of damage to boats alone reaching half a billion dollars.

As the remnants of post-tropical cyclone Irene dissipate, another weather system is being monitored closely: Tropical Storm Katia currently sits some 750 miles west of the Cape Verde islands, but already presenting sustained winds speeds of 60mph she is gaining strength on her west-north-west path towards the Caribbean and is expected to become a hurricane sometime Wednesday.

Image of storm systems and YouTube video showing 10-day visualisation of Irene’s course: NASA-GOES Project