US Braces for Hurricane Irene

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Authorities along the southeastern coast of the United States are evacuating residents and beach visitors, as a powerful hurricane heads toward the area.

Forecasters issued a hurricane watch for much of the North Carolina coast Thursday, as Hurricane Irene pounded The Bahamas with winds as high as 185 kilometers per hour. Irene is currently a Category Three storm on a five-point scale, and the National Hurricane Center has labeled it “dangerous.”

The storm is expected to strengthen on Thursday and move up the eastern coast of the U.S. beginning Saturday.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate, told reporters Thursday that Irene will not just be a coastal storm. He said the storm will have impact “well inland,” both from flooding and winds that can topple trees and cause power outages.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey have declared states of emergency ahead of the storm.

The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, urged residents to prepare to move to higher ground, saying some areas of the city could be ordered to evacuate.

At a major port in Virginia, the U.S. Navy ordered its ships out to sea, where it said they can better weather such storms.

At last report, forecasters said Irene was located northeast of Nassau, Bahamas, moving northwest at 20 kilometers per hour. There have been reports of widespread damage on two southern islands of The Bahamas, but no injuries.

Irene is the first hurricane to seriously threaten the United States in three years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that emergency personnel are preparing all along the coast.

Authorities say Irene could cause flooding in the U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England regions, where soil is saturated from recent heavy rains. They say Irene's tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 465 kilometers.