Hurricane Irene lashing US East coast
Hurricane Irene is whipping parts of the eastern United States, lashing the coastline with sustained winds of 140 kilometer per hour.
The latest update from the National Hurricane Center put the center of the Category 1 storm over the Atlantic coast of the eastern U.S. state of North Carolina, moving north-northeast at about 24 kilometers per hour.
At a Saturday briefing, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned residents in the projected path of the storm to take all warnings seriously, saying "this is just the beginning."
Napolitano said anyone in an area asked to evacuate needs to leave. And she said anyone not asked to evacuate should "hunker down."
Forecasters say hurricane-force winds are being felt up to 150 kilometers away from the eye of the storm, and that tropical storm-force winds and whipping across an even greater area. They said there is also a danger of tornados forming along the outer edge of the storm.
Irene blasted its way onto shore early Saturday and has already toppled trees, flooded streets and knocked out power to tens of thousands of people. Its projected path is still expected to take it through some of the country's most densely populated areas, including Washington and New York.
Emergency officials warn they expect large waves, additional flooding and significant power outages up and down the eastern coastline as the storm churns northward.
The American Red Cross says about 13,000 people spent the overnight hours in shelters and that it was opening up dozens of additional shelters.
National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said forecasters do not expect Hurricane Irene to strengthen in the coming hours, though he cautioned damage could still be significant.
A hurricane warning remains in effect for New York and much of the eastern U.S. coast in what President Barack Obama is calling "an extremely dangerous and costly" storm.VoA News