Tourists Flee From Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene could affect as many as 65 million people on the U.S. East Coast beginning today and through the weekend.

The first rain from Hurricane Irene is reaching the Carolinas as the massive storm moves slowly northward. The National Weather Service says rain carried by the storm's outer bands is reaching the southeastern part of North Carolina. Rain is also falling in South Carolina. High waves have begun hitting North Carolina. The Category 2 storm currently has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 kph), but it's expected to be stronger when it hits North Carolina's coast sometime Saturday.

As many as 200,000 tourists and residents were expected to evacuate North Carolina in advance of the storm. Irene is predicted to follow a path that could take it to large cities like New York and Boston.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers were told Thursday to pack a bag and be prepared to move elsewhere. The nation's biggest city hasn't seen a hurricane in decades. Even if the winds aren't strong enough to damage buildings in a metropolis made largely of brick, concrete and steel, a lot of New York's subway system and other infrastructure is underground and subject to flooding in the event of an unusually strong storm surge or heavy rains.

Governors from at least seven states declared states of emergency in advance of the storm

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell ordered a mandatory evacuation of non-residents along the state’s coastal areas and strongly urged residents with the ability to leave beach communities to do so as soon as possible.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called on people to voluntarily leave the shore and temporarily suspended tolls on all parts of the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway.

Hurricanes have made landfall on New Jersey just twice in the last 200 years, in 1821 and 1903, the latter battering Atlantic City. But the state now has 8.8 million people and coastal areas packed with homes and businesses.

In Connecticut, Gov. Daniel P. Malloy declared a state of emergency and warned there could be prolonged power outages if Irene dumps up to a foot (.3 meter) of rain on already saturated ground. The beach community of Ocean City, Maryland, also ordered thousands of people to leave.

"This is not a time to get out the camera and sit on the beach and take pictures of the waves," said Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.


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