Irene slams into N Carolina, thousands flee
North Carolina, August 27, 2011
Hurricane Irene blasted ashore in North Carolina on Saturday on a path that triggered evacuations in New York and threatened the desely populated US east coast with flooding and power outages.
The hurricane knocked out power in nearly 250,000 homes in North Carolina and Virginia and was heading towards New York City, where officials warned of a real flooding risk for residents of Long Island Sound and metropolitan New York.
'A forecast storm surge of 4-8 feet certainly poses a risk,' Read told a conference call, adding that for this reason New York city authorities had ordered the evacuation of around 370,000 residents from low-lying areas.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents fled resort towns along the New Jersey shore on Saturday ahead of powerful Hurricane Irene whose arrival was just hours away.
Mandatory evacuations covered all of the state's barrier island beach resorts, including such popular spots as Atlantic City, Cape May and Long Beach Island, and affected hundreds of thousands of residents and summer visitors, officials said.
The looming storm was bringing the biggest waves of the season, prompting scores of surfers to flock to the beaches despite ominous clouds and rain.
'It's the waves,' said Guy Gallo of Little Silver, N.J., as he prepared to paddle out into the Atlantic Ocean.
'But you don't want to get caught out when the hurricane hits,' he added.
The Category 1 hurricane, expected to hit the region late on Saturday or early on Sunday, is likely to pack winds of 55 to 75 miles an hour (89 to 121 kph), weather experts said.
Damage to resort boardwalks is likely, forecasters said. At a doughnut shop in Sea Bright, a sign advertising its closing hours read: 'Friday 10 p.m., Saturday noon, Sunday, Good Luck.'
Casinos and hotels in Atlantic City were emptying after orders by Governor Chris Christie that all casinos close by noon on Saturday. A state of emergency has been in effect in New Jersey since Thursday.
A southbound stretch of nearly 161 km of the Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River was closed, as was the Atlantic City Expressway, which heads to Philadelphia.
A spokeswoman for Cape May County, which was under mandatory evacuation orders, said only about 10,000 people remained from about 800,000 people who live there or were visiting.
All along the shore towns, homeowners were taking precautions. In the wealthy enclave of Deal, workers were boarding up windows on some of its mansions. Household employees huddled in bus shelters, waiting to go home.
Bill Read also said New Jersey resorts would feel the effects of the storm on Sunday morning and a storm surge was also forecast for Long Island Sound and Metropolitan New York.
Irene remains a 'large and dangerous' storm as it moves up the US East Coast and residents there should take its threat seriously, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also warned.
Operations at the two units of the Brunswick nuclear power station in Southport, North Carolina, were ramped down to 65 per cent of the total 1,875-MW of power to make sure they could still run if the storm interrupted the electric grid operations, said a spokesman for Progress Energy.
Progress reported 200,000 customers without power in North Carolina, while Dominion Resources said 47,000 customers in northern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia were down.
Oil refineries in the US Northeast - home to 1.2 million barrels per day of capacity - prepared their plants throughout the week and some scaled back operations. Pipeline operators warned of potential delays for fuel distribution ahead.
ConocoPhillips was cutting rates at its 185,000 barrel per day (bpd) Trainer, Pennsylvania, refinery, sources said on Saturday. On Friday, sources said rates had been cut by 25 per cent at Sunoco's Marcus Hook refinery.
US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday warned of extensive power outages from Hurricane Irene.
The storm howled ashore in North Carolina on Saturday, weakening to a Category 1 hurricane and was expected to hit the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday night and New England on Sunday.-Reuters