Obama Urges Americans to Prepare for Hurricane Irene

Posted August 26th, 2011 at 12:00 pm (UTC-5)
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President Barack Obama is urging residents of the U.S. East Coast to take precautions now, ahead of a powerful hurricane that authorities fear will cause widespread flooding and power outages.

President Obama said Friday that all indications point to Hurricane Irene being a “historic” storm. He said the nation has to be “prepared for the worst” and urged anyone given an evacuation order to follow it.

The governors of seven states — stretching from North Carolina to Connecticut — have declared states of emergency to free up resources ahead of the hurricane, which is expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday. Mr. Obama also declared a state of emergency for North Carolina.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday that federal authorities are taking the storm “very seriously.” She said the president has directed agencies to ensure all the needed resources are available.

The National Hurricane Center says Irene has slightly weakened, with maximum sustained winds of 175 kilometers an hour. Forecasters expect it to strengthen as it nears North Carolina.

Hurricane watches and warnings have been issued for much of the East Coast, and authorities in some areas have already evacuated residents and tourists. In New York City, the mayor ordered hospitals and nursing homes in low-lying areas to evacuate.

In Washington, the threat of the hurricane led organizers to postpone Sunday's dedication of a memorial to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Irene, currently a dangerous Category Two storm on a five-point scale of storm intensity, is expected to have an effect well inland, both from winds and flooding.

The National Hurricane Center says the storm is expected to produce rainfall accumulations between 15 and 25 centimeters. Some parts of the U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England regions are already saturated from recent heavy rains.

Irene, the first hurricane to seriously threaten the United States in three years, killed at least one person in Puerto Rico and two in the Dominican Republic. It also destroyed homes in The Bahamas.