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Why insurance might not cover billions in hurricane Irene damage

Damage estimates run in the billions for hurricane Irene, but with flooding the main culprit, a majority of damage will be items not covered by insurance claims, experts say.

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Counting the cost of damage left by hurricane Irene
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Hurricane Irene leaves in its wake an economic toll that includes inland flooding, power outages, and costly shutdowns of big-city transit systems.

Although Irene downshifted to a tropical storm before passing through New York City and beyond, damage could still total more than $5 billion, according to one assessment.

Among the storm's largest effects:

  • Floods in inland areas. From New Jersey to Vermont, Irene's torrents fell on a region that had already been saturated by thunderstorms in the week or so before. Many rivers won't crest for 36 hours or so, and important stretches of the Connecticut River not until Wednesday.
  • Power outages. More than 5 million homes and businesses were without power from North Carolina to Maine on Monday, with no quick end in sight.
  • Lost business activity. Consumers in America's most densely populated region hunkered in their homes instead of going to malls or movie theaters. Although the storm came on a weekend, its effects also spilled into the work week as some transit routes struggled to get running for commuters on Monday.
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