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FEMA head: 'Stay inside, stay safe' until storm clears

By the CNN Wire Staff
A downed tree cover a street in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday.
A downed tree cover a street in Brooklyn, New York, on Sunday.
  • Fugate says the storm remains dangerous even when downgraded
  • Some people could face a loss of power for days, he says

(CNN) -- Even though Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to a tropical storm, its powerful winds and drenching rain continue to pose danger to people who venture into it, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Sunday.

People should "stay inside, stay safe," FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told CNN's "State of the Union" program. "For a lot of folks, the danger still exists. We still will have trees coming down, heavy rain, strong winds."

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost electrical power, and it will take time to get it all restored, Fugate warned.

"I think some people will get power back rather quickly, but other people, it's going to be days," he said on the NBC program "Meet the Press."

Irene leaves many without power

In addition, Fugate said anyone evacuated in the storm that made landfall twice -- first in North Carolina on Saturday and again in New Jersey on Sunday -- should avoid returning to their homes until floodwaters have receded and emergency crews have cleared fallen trees and downed power lines.

"Don't go back yet. Let local officials give you the all clear," Fugate said.

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