Hurricane Irene continues to crawl northward at 14 m.p.h. and is expected to make landfall sometime on Saturday, with Wilmington, N.C., Virginia City, Atlantic City, and New York City all in the storm’s path. Hurricane Warnings are in effect for much of the North Carolina coast and Hurricane Watches stretch throughout Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey to New York’s Long Island.
The uncommonly large hurricane has hurricane force winds of at least 74 m.p.h. spread 70 miles out from the center and winds of at least 40m.p.h. stretching 255 miles out. The storm, because of its size and slow progress, is expected to inundate the east coast with rain and intensify flooding in the mid-Atlantic states, where the ground is already saturated from heavy rains over the summer. The biggest fear is that the fragile Outer Banks in North Carolina will be devastated if, as forecasted by meteorologists, they are caught in the heaviest part of the hurricane.
Residents and tourists in the three counties along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, under a mandatory evacuation, were told to move inland on Thursday and need to be out by Friday. Traffic was backed up four miles by Thursday evening as people queued for the main bridge to the mainland in Kill Devil Hills. Coastal authorities are already feeling the effects of the storm, reporting at Wrightsville Beach that they had rescued dozens of swimmers on Thursday who had gotten in trouble with rip tides. That problem is expected to get worse on Friday, as Hurricane Irene moves closer to shore bringing stronger winds and bigger waves. Officials warned residents to evacuate early and not try to wait out the storm or wait to see if its path will change.
Many schools along the coast have cancelled school on Friday or arranged for early dismissal. Amtrak has cancelled train service south of Washington on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Service in the Northeast Corridor will remain as scheduled.
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