It’s the beginning of a nightmare for residents of the East Coast.
As New York City prepared for a massive transit shutdown, heavy winds and rain from Hurricane Irene began to lash the North Carolina coast Friday night — a prelude to what government hurricane experts warned could be a devastating weekend trek northward all the way to New England.
Category 2 Hurricane
Irene remained a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph, though the storm’s trajectory slowed from 14 mph to 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Irene churned toward an anticipated 7 to 8 a.m. landfall Saturday between Beaufort and Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The core of the 200-mile-wide storm was then expected to move to the mid-Atlantic coast Saturday night and southern New England on Sunday.
The storm might weaken a bit after reaching North Carolina, but “Irene is forecast to remain a hurricane” at least through Sunday, the center said in an advisory late Friday. Storm surges of 6 to 11 feet were expected in North Carolina, and 4 to 8 feet from Virginia to Cape Cod, accompanied by “large … destructive … and life-threatening waves,” the advisory said.
And if all of that misery were not enough, the hurricane center warned that there could be scattered tornadoes in eastern North Carolina.
The storm prompted President Obama to cut short his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, but not before he warned the tens of millions of people in Irene’s expected path: “You have to take precautions now. Don’t wait. Don’t delay. We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst.” Officials in New York were taking no chances, ordering hundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying areas to evacuate, halting all train and subway service and closing the region’s five major airports at noon Saturday.
State Of Emergency Declared In Nine States
Nine states declared emergencies and called up National Guard troops to assist in rescues and other emergencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency moved industrial generators, medicine, bottled water and other supplies to staging bases in North Carolina, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Irene, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, could affect up to 65 million people in major cities along the east coast from Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston — the most densely populated corridor in the US.
If it hits New York and New England at category two, it will be the region’s strongest storm since Hurricane Bob glanced off Massachusetts in 1991, and Hurricane Gloria, which caused extensive damage to New York City in 1985.
Dozens Of Emergency Shelters In Place
The American Red Cross said it was preparing dozens of emergency shelters along the east coast, as states of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina and in the nation’s biggest city, New York.
You can watch Obama addressing the nation about Hurricane Irene here. He spoke just before leaving his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to return early to Washington.
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo And Video via Creative Commons