I urge readers in the Northeast who live inland from the path of Irene not to assume that being well away from the coast will protect them. Inland flooding is nothing to dismiss, especially when the ground is already saturated as it is in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Indeed, NOAA cites inland fresh water flooding as the major cause of death from Hurricanes. Two prime examples are Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Agnes. Even when the death toll is relatively low, inland freshwater flooding from a hurricane can make life miserable.
I live hundreds of miles from the coast. A year after I moved here in 2003 Hurricane Ivan dropped as much as 15 inches of rain on western North Carolina. Only ten days earlier the remnants of Hurricane Frances had also dropped several inches of rain across the region. There were eight deaths in North Carolina, including five people killed in one mountain development by a wall of water, mud and debris that wiped out 15 homes. Many roads became impassable. A 500 foot section of eastbound I-40 high above the Pigeon River Gorge was completely undermined and had to be rebuilt, disrupting both traffic patterns and parts of the local economy for several months. People were cut off from their homes when countless small bridges and drainage tiles on driveways and private rural roads were washed away as tiny mountain streams became raging torrents. I didn't suffer any flood damage myself but was scary to see the little clear trickle a foot wide and six inches deep that runs near the house become a four foot deep avalanche of muddy water and debris.
With the ground that wet it didn't take a lot of wind to cause fully leafed out trees to topple onto power lines and buildings. The sun had already broken through and I was in my yard offering directions to a lost traveler trying to work his way around the closure of I-40 and several state routes when a last gust of no more than 40 mph swept down the valley. When I went back in the house the power was out. It remained out for a day because the utility crews had problems navigating through the road closures and getting over all the downed trees to the actual break. A mile down the road a fallen power line started a fire that couldn't be fought because the firetrucks couldn't get across flooded roads.
Ever since that day I make a habit of keeping a case of bottled water and several days canned food on hand. Also candles, spare batteries, a hand cranked flashlight, two solar LED lanterns and a land line phone that does not need a power assist. I also make a habit of filling the bathtub with water every time the weather looks like it could cause a power outage so I can flush the toilet.