* 3.3 million customers without power along East Coast
* Nuclear plants and refineries cut operations
* Irene at hurricane strength on approach to New York City
* Con-Ed considers cutting power to Lower Manhattan
* Oil ports in New York, Philadelphia restrict traffic
(Adds more power outages, storm details)
By Joshua Schneyer and Selam Gebrekidan
NEW YORK, Aug 28 Hurricane Irene knocked out
power to 3.3 million homes and businesses along the U.S. East
Coast, forced two nuclear plants to shut and idled oil ports
and refining as it approached New York City early on Sunday.
The category 1 storm made landfall in New Jersey before
dawn with 75 mile-per-hour/120 kph winds, dumping heavy rain
and provoking storm surges. The hurricane was 40 miles
southwest of New York City at 8:00 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the
National Hurricane Center said.
Mid-Atlantic coast states reported more power losses even
as blackouts in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut jumped. In
New York City and nearby Westchester County, some 80,000
customers lost electricity.
Consolidated Edison (ED.N), which powers nearly 3 million
homes and businesses -- or more than 8 million residents -- in
the city warned that flooding could prompt much wider power
cuts in downtown Manhattan.
Two East Coast nuclear power plants shut to ensure safety.
Aluminum siding flew off a building in Maryland and slammed
into a transformer at CENG's Calvert Cliff reactor early
Sunday, forcing it to shut and declare an "unusual event," the
lowest level of nuclear emergency. CENG said the reactor was
safe and secure.
As a precaution against winds, Exelon Corp (EXC.N) took its
Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey offline on
Saturday. The plant normally supplies electricity to as many as
600,000 homes. [ID:nWEN7647]
Several East Coast oil refineries throttled back operations
and ConocoPhillips (COP.N) shut its Bayway plant in New
With gale-force winds and rough seas threatening shipping,
the oil hubs of New York Harbor and the Port of Philadelphia
declared alert level "Zulu," an emergency designation that
severely restricts vessel traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Factbox: Irene-related power outages [ID:nN1E77Q05B]
Factbox: Energy cos, refiners brace for Irene[ID:nN1E77Q047]
Factbox: US nuclear plants in Irene's path [ID:nN1E77P179]
Hurricane Irene hits East Coast [ID:nSTORM]
Reuters Hurricane Tracker: r.reuters.com/san78n
National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov
Weather Underground: www.wunderground.com/tropical
IRENE NEARS NEW YORK CITY
The path of Irene was shifting westward, raising the
prospect of 10-foot/(3 meter) storm surges, forecasters said.
That could raise the odds of blackouts in New York City.
Con-Ed said it was evaluating whether to turn off power
later on Sunday in low-lying areas of Manhattan including the
Financial District. Hundreds of thousands of residents in the
area have already evacuated to higher ground.
"We're now at a critical moment of the storm with debris
starting to fly due to the high winds," said Con-Ed spokeswoman
Joy Faber. "Our crews in the field are reporting more hazardous
Shutting off power in downtown Manhattan before flooding
from a storm surge could lessen the time required to restart
Irene earlier cut power to large swaths of Virginia and
North Carolina as it came ashore, prompting Brunswick nuclear
power plant in Southport, North Carolina to reduce power
(Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan, Jeanine Prezioso, Joshua
Schneyer, Janet McGurty, David Sheppard, and Matthew Robinson;
Writing by Joshua Schneyer Matthew Robinson; editing by Bill
Trott and Jackie Frank)