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Thursday
Aug252011

Hurricane Irene Aims Fury at East Coast

NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response (WASHINGTON) -- Evacuation orders were issued along the coast of North Carolina on Thursday and emergency declarations were made by states as far north as New Jersey as Hurricane Irene gathered strength and took direct aim at the U.S. coast.

"This is a very, very serious situation," said Dorothy Toolan, public information officer for Dare County, N.C. "We have not seen anything like this in the lifetimes of most our residents."

The county issued evacuation orders for all of its 180,000 residents because "once the storm hits it will be very difficult to respond to distress calls," Toolan said.

Evacuation orders were also issued by Currituck and Cateret counties along North Carolina's shoreline.

As cars streamed away from the barrier islands, the governors of Virginia and New Jersey declared states of emergency. New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police are deploying more than 80 boats around the city as well as several helicopters to prepare for emergencies, and city hospitals have tested their emergency generators.

Fearing Irene's wrath, Amtrak announced it is canceling all train service south of Washington D.C. for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Irene, which spent the day battering the Bahamas, is expected to slam into the North Carolina coast Friday night and then churn north along the coast as far as Boston.

The slow moving storm lashed the Bahamas, uprooting trees, shattering glass and leaving much of the southeastern islands without power. As the storm clears the island and continues over the warm water of the Atlantic, its wind speed is expected to strengthen and the size of the storm could increase to a category 4 with wind speeds of at least 131 mph.

Based on its current path, Irene could hit Cape Hatteras, N.C., by Friday night and batter the Mid-Atlantic by Saturday night onto Sunday morning.

It is expected to weaken somewhat as it claws its way up the coast, but will likely still be packing winds of 50 to 70 mph when it reaches New York City and Boston. It is expected to dump 6 to 12 inches of rain on the Jersey shore, Long Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The Navy is preparing to move 126 warships, the entire Second Fleet, out of Irene's path.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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    Hurricane Irene Aims Fury at East Coast - National News - ABC News Radio

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