Hurricane Irene slams US, millions brace for storm’s fury (Lead)August 27th, 2011 - 9:41 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Aug 27 (IANS) A somewhat weakened but still ferocious, Hurricane Irene slammed into the North Carolina coast Saturday, starting its northward march up the US east coast threatening some 65 million Americans in its path.
The massive Category 1 hurricane made landfall near Cape Lookout around 7.30 a.m. with sustained winds of around 136 km per hour (85 miles per hour), thrashing sand and water in every direction, CNN reported.
Thousands of people in North Carolina were without power as reports of damage from what President Barack Obama warned could be a “hurricane of historic proportions” started filtering in.
Obama cut short his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard island in Massachusetts by a day and returned to the White House Friday night before Irene’s northward run threatened to cause trouble all the way up to Boston this weekend.
Obama has signed emergency declarations for Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local efforts.
Parts of New York City, the nation’s most populous city, including sea-level lower Manhattan, braced for major flooding and authorities ordered an unprecedented mandatory evacuation in parts of “the city that never sleeps”.
The order affects some 370,000 residents of low-lying areas of all five of the city’s boroughs, including Queens, home to the largest concentration of Indian Americans in the US with a population of over 130,000.
Five New York City hospitals also had to evacuate patients.
“The low-lying coastal areas that will be endangered most by storm surge include Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, Far Rockaway and Broad Channel in Queens, South Beach, Midland Beach, and other low-lying areas on Staten Island, Battery Park City in Manhattan, and some small sections of the Bronx,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Authorities warned of widespread and prolonged power outages, flash flooding and storm surges that could flood low-lying communities and possibly inundate subway systems.
The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and New Jersey Transit shut down their systems and five airports in metropolitan New York closed to arriving flights at noon Saturday.
Various airlines cancelled flights to and from the region starting Saturday.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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