As Irene Lashes Carolinas, Parts Of N.Y., N.J. Evacuate

  • A motorboat passes a submerged pickup truck on Main Street in Washingtonville, N.Y., on Sunday following heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene.
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    A motorboat passes a submerged pickup truck on Main Street in Washingtonville, N.Y., on Sunday following heavy rains from Tropical Storm Irene.
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  • A deer wades through floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene on Sunday in Lincoln Park, N.J. Rivers and creeks surged toward potentially record levels.
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    A deer wades through floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene on Sunday in Lincoln Park, N.J. Rivers and creeks surged toward potentially record levels.
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  • A person checks a building for occupants as raging floodwaters cross Route 100, closing the main road in Waitsfield, Vt., on Sunday.
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    A person checks a building for occupants as raging floodwaters cross Route 100, closing the main road in Waitsfield, Vt., on Sunday.
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  • A security guard hangs on the door of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's SUV in the middle of a flooded street Sunday in Margaretville, N.Y.
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  • Darrell Tarte surveys damage from a tree at a home hit by the hurricane on Sunday in Port Republic, Md.
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  • Jimmy Kaplow (left) and David Korostoff watch as water in New York City's Central Park flows down the steps as the tropical storm passes through the city on Sunday.
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    Jimmy Kaplow (left) and David Korostoff watch as water in New York City's Central Park flows down the steps as the tropical storm passes through the city on Sunday.
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  • An Oak Bluffs, Mass., fire department vehicle drives through strong winds and ocean spray from the tropical storm while driving along a costal road in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard on Sunday.
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    An Oak Bluffs, Mass., fire department vehicle drives through strong winds and ocean spray from the tropical storm while driving along a costal road in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard on Sunday.
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  • Residents clear debris from downed trees after a tornado spawned by Hurricane Irene touched down, on Sunday in Lewes, Del.
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    Residents clear debris from downed trees after a tornado spawned by Hurricane Irene touched down, on Sunday in Lewes, Del.
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  • Water sits on the streets of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood  on Sunday.
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  • People form a bucket brigade to bail water out of a flooded Chelsea apartment in New York on Sunday.
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  • Some flooding is no match for a scooter ride in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Sunday.
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    Some flooding is no match for a scooter ride in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., on Sunday.
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  • Waves crash around a home Sunday morning in Southampton, N.Y.
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  • Lower Manhattan sits amid dark clouds as Irene bears down on New York early Sunday, bringing winds and rapidly rising seawater that threatened parts of the city.
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    Lower Manhattan sits amid dark clouds as Irene bears down on New York early Sunday, bringing winds and rapidly rising seawater that threatened parts of the city.
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  • Large waves pound a pier Sunday morning in Ocean City, Md.
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  • An abandoned car sits half-submerged in floodwaters on a southbound lane of the New Jersey Turnpike near exit 12 in Carteret, N.J.
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  • A sign stays just above the water in Ocean City, Md., on Saturday.
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More than 2 million residents along the Eastern Seaboard have been ordered to move to safer places as Hurricane Irene lumbers toward the Mid-Atlantic region.

Residents of low-lying areas of New York City and those in the summer resort towns along the 100-mile Jersey Shore were ordered to evacuate Friday. Hurricane warnings were issued from North Carolina to New York, and watches were posted farther north, on the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard off Massachusetts. Evacuation orders covered at least 2.3 million people, including 1 million in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in North Carolina, 200,000 in Virginia and 100,000 in Delaware.

This NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Irene as it approached the East Coast on Friday. i i

This NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Irene as it approached the East Coast on Friday. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption AFP/Getty Images
This NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Irene as it approached the East Coast on Friday.

This NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Irene as it approached the East Coast on Friday.

AFP/Getty Images

The massive Category 2 hurricane, which is expected to make landfall in North Carolina early Saturday, slowed down slightly. The National Hurricane Center said late Friday that the storm was moving at 13 mph, down from the 14 mph it was moving earlier in the evening. But it still packs 100 mph winds and remains dangerous. Some 65 million people from the Carolinas to Massachusetts could be in Irene's path.

"Don't wait. Don't delay," said President Obama, who decided to cut short his summer vacation by a day and return to Washington, where a state of emergency has also been declared. "I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now."

"This is probably the largest number of people that have been threatened by a single hurricane in the United States," said Jay Baker, a geography professor at Florida State University.

Rain and tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph were already pelting the coasts of the Carolinas on Friday as Irene tracked north, snapping power lines and flooding streets. Officials warned of dangerous rip currents as Irene roiled the surf. Thousands already were without power. By Friday evening 50 mph winds were measured at Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

Experts are forecasting billions of dollars in losses, though the storm's economic impact will depend on factors including its size and speed and where it makes landfall. Computer models from catastrophic-insurance provider ICAT put the estimated damage at $4.7 billion, a figure that includes destruction of homes, cars, public infrastructure and other property caused by high winds and flooding.

Preparing For A Hurricane

  • Develop a family plan. Write down an emergency plan based on your hurricane vulnerability and share it with relatives and friends. Several websites can provide information on whether your community may be vulnerable to hurricanes and other weather hazards.
  • Listen frequently to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards for bulletins on a storm's progress.
  • Inspect and secure your home — including mobile home tie-downs, roofs, windows, doors and garage doors. Store lawn furniture and other loose, lightweight objects, such as garbage cans and garden tools.
  • Create a disaster supply kit. Stock up on batteries, nonperishable foods, first-aid supplies, drinking water and medications.
  • Fuel and service your vehicles.
  • Have cash on hand in case power goes out and ATMs don't work.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Hurricane Center

Escape From New York ... And The Jersey Shore

In New York state, where Obama declared a state of emergency, Irene has already prompted several firsts: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday issued an unprecedented evacuation order for residents of coastal areas of Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, as well as the financial district in Lower Manhattan, Governor's Island, and parts of Battery Park City, Coney Island and the Rockaways. The low-lying areas, scattered across the city, are home to about 270,000 residents.

But it was not clear how residents would get out or where they would go. Most New Yorkers don't have a car. On top of that, New York City officials also said they were shutting down the city's massive subway and transit system by noon Saturday, just hours after the first rain is expected to fall.

Michael Brennan of the National Hurricane Center in Miami said the geography of the coastline makes low-lying areas of New York especially vulnerable.

"Near ... New York City is an area where a lot of water can be funneled up into a very small area if you get a big surge of easterly flow," Brennan told NPR. "So that's an area where the storm surge can be enhanced."

Trains, Planes And Automobiles

Irene is also playing havoc with planes, trains and other forms of transit along the Eastern Seaboard.

The storm could strike major airports from Washington to Boston. In anticipation, more than 2,400 flights have been canceled through Monday.

Cars evacuating Kitty Hawk, N.C., clog the roadway. i i

Cars evacuating Kitty Hawk, N.C., clog the roadway. Steve Earley/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Steve Earley/AP
Cars evacuating Kitty Hawk, N.C., clog the roadway.

Cars evacuating Kitty Hawk, N.C., clog the roadway.

Steve Earley/AP

Delta Air Lines is canceling 1,300 flights and will shut down at New York City-area airports on Sunday until the hurricane passes.

JetBlue is dropping 880 flights over the weekend, mostly in New York and Boston. American Airlines scrubbed 265 flights on Saturday and probably more than that Sunday. Southwest Airlines planned to stop flights to and from Norfolk, Va., beginning Saturday morning.

The five main New York City-area airports will be closed to arriving passenger flights beginning at noon on Saturday because of Hurricane Irene. The suspension includes John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in New York City, and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey — three of the busiest airports in the nation.

Mass transit in suburban Philadelphia will halt at 12:30 a.m. Sunday. And Amtrak has suspended service south from Washington.

Gasoline stations along the East Coast began to run dry Friday, as drivers rushed for a last-minute fill-up before the storm. Utility officials say millions of people are in danger of losing electric power, some for days. Analysts don't expect widespread or long-lasting gas shortages, though, nor do they expect prices for power and gas to rise.

'We're Going To Have Damages. We Just Don't Know How Bad'

Risks are many from Irene: Surging seas, drenching rains, flash floods, high winds and protracted power outages are all possibilities the Federal Emergency Management Agency director wasn't counting out.

"We're going to have damages. We just don't know how bad," said FEMA chief Craig Fugate. "This is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time."

Federal officials have directed Northeast residents to ready.gov for information on how to prepare for the storm.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN Friday afternoon, "We are reminding people today that they are part of our team — they need to prepare."

Irene comes on the heels of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake that rattled the East Coast on Tuesday. After the temblor, cellphone service was spotty at best in many affected regions, as people rushed to make calls, clogging networks. As Irene bears down on the Mid-Atlantic, "I urge people to use other forms of communication if you can," Napolitano said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report

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