Saturday, August 27, 2011

Millions flee as Hurricane Irene lashes US east coast

ABC reporter Steve Osunsami flew deep into the eye of Hurricane Irene
Hurricane Irene is pummelling the US east coast after making landfall in North Carolina, where it has caused flooding and damage.
The 500-mile wide storm, bringing winds of more than 85 mph (140km/h) is moving slowly northwards, with New York and other large cities in its path.
More than two million people have been ordered to leave their homes.
Irene remains a "large and dangerous" storm, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned on Saturday.
A first death caused by the storm has been reported in North Carolina.
Authorities said it blew a large tree branch onto a man near Raleigh, killing him.
In New York City, 300,000 people living in low-lying areas have been told to leave in an unprecedented mandatory evacuation.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Irene was a "life-threatening storm" for New Yorkers and that it was "foolish" and "dangerous" to ignore the order.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "You have to prepare for the worst case"
New York State is one of seven states from North Carolina to Connecticut to have declared emergencies.
President Barack Obama, who cut short his holiday to return to Washington, had a conference call about the hurricane with emergency officials on Saturday.
He earlier warned Irene could be "a historic hurricane" and that everyone should take the storm seriously.
The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Irene from a category two to a category one hurricane but says winds gusting up to 90mph extend outwards some 90 miles from the eye of the storm. Tropical-force winds extend as far as 290m.
The NHC expects Irene to weaken after hitting North Carolina, but it is forecast to remain a hurricane as it moves north along the Atlantic coast on Sunday.
'Dangerous surges' The eye of the storm crossed the North Carolina coast near Cape Lookout at about 0730 local (1130 GMT) on Saturday - at the start of what is predicted to be a 36-hour assault on the US east coast.
Power lines have been toppled and more than 400,000 people are without electricity in North Carolina and neighbouring Virginia.
"Extremely dangerous" storm surges have been forecast in parts of the state that could raise water levels by as much as 11ft (3.35m).

#Irene Twitter updates

More than 200,000 people had already evacuated coastal areas as high waves and strong winds began to lash islands just off the mainland. Residents hoping to ride out the storm have stocked up on food, water and fuel.
"There's nothing you can do now but wait. You can hear the wind and it's scary," one man who rode out the storm told the Associated Press.
"Things are banging against the house. I hope it doesn't get worse, but I know it will. I just hate hurricanes," said Leon Reasor in the Outer Banks town of Buxton.
Further north, large numbers of people are on the move in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York City after mandatory evacuations were ordered for people living in low-lying areas.
In New York city, parts of Manhattan and into Staten Island are at particular risk, according to projections issued by city authorities.
From midday, the city's transport systems began to shut down. Airports are also closing.
Hospitals in affected areas have begun evacuating patients.
In Washington DC, Sunday's dedication of the new memorial for Martin Luther King Jr - which President Obama had been expected to attend - has been postponed until at least September. The power company serving the Washington area warned of "potential widespread power outages" at the weekend.
Photo: Hope LeVin, Turks and Caicos
The storm has already battered the Caribbean, including the Turks and Caicos Islands
Supermarkets along the east coast were reportedly running out of supplies as people stock up before the storm arrives.
"Earlier I was in the supermarket and it was absolute chaos - no shopping carts available, torch batteries sold out, everyone buying up bottled water and that kind of thing," Oliver Brew of Brooklyn in New York told the BBC.
The Pentagon has loaded 200 trucks with emergency supplies, and 100,000 National Guard troops are on standby.
The American Red Cross said it was preparing dozens of emergency shelters along the east coast.
The north-eastern seaboard is the most densely populated corridor in the US, with more than 65 million people living in major cities along the coast from Washington DC in the south to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston further north.
States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
"We're going to have damages, we just don't know how bad," Craig Fugate, head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the Associated Press news agency.
"This is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time."
If Irene 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
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