Hurricane Irene began lashing the East Coast with rain Friday with the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage along a densely populated arc that included Washington,Baltimore,Philadelphia,New York and Boston. At least 65 million people could be affected.
President Barack Obama said all indications point to the storm being a historic hurricane. I cannot stress this highly enough. If you are in the projected path of this hurricane,you have to take precautions now, Obama said Friday from Marthas Vineyard,where he was wrapping up a vacation.
The president was to return to the White House on Saturday,the same day the storm is expected to pass through the area around the nations capital.
As Irene trudged northwest from the Bahamas,rain from its outer bands began falling along the North and South Carolina coast. Hurricane warnings remained in effect from North Carolina to New Jersey. Hurricane watches were in effect even farther north and included Long Island,Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket,Massachusetts.
The hurricane could be the strongest to strike the East Coast in seven years,and people were already getting out of the way. Irene already had pummeled the Caribbean,causing floods and power outages. The centre of the storm was still about 531 km south-southwest of Cape Hatteras,North Carolina,and moving to the north at 22 kph.
Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were told Thursday to pack a bag and be prepared to move. New Yorks two airports are close to the water and could be inundated,as could densely packed neighbourhoods.