Eastern US Braces for Hurricane Irene

Posted August 26th, 2011 at 1:25 am (UTC-5)
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Eastern U.S. states are scrambling to prepare for a possible onslaught from a powerful hurricane heading toward the U.S. coast.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York have declared states of emergency to free up resources ahead of Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday. President Barack Obama has also declared a state of emergency for North Carolina.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Irene is on a path towards North Carolina, carrying maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers an hour, making it a category three storm on a five-point scale measuring a storm's intensity and potential destructive power. The storm has killed at least one person in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic.

Hurricane watches and warnings have been issued for much of the eastern coast, and authorities in some of the affected areas are already evacuating residents and beach visitors. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered hospitals and nursing homes in low-lying areas of the city to evacuate.

The threat of Hurricane Irene led organizers to postpone Sunday's dedication of a memorial to the legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

Authorities say Irene could cause flooding in the U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England regions, where soil is saturated from recent heavy rains.

Irene is the first hurricane to seriously threaten the United States in three years