East Coast prepares for Hurricane Irene’s arrival
As massive Hurricane Irene advanced toward the Eastern Seaboard with 115 mph winds, officials issued a hurricane warning for the entire North Carolina coast to the Virginia border, New York ordered low-lying hospitals and nursing homes to evacuate, and at least seven states declared emergencies.
It’s been nearly 73 years since the so-called Great New England Hurricane — one of the most powerful and destructive storms ever to hit southern New England. The storm now bearing down on the Northeast, Irene, has drawn comparisons to the one from way back then which, according to the National Weather Service, killed nearly 600 people and injured 1,700.
The Great Hurricane produced tides from New London, Conn., east to Massachusetts’ Cape Cod that were between 18 feet and 25 feet, the weather service says. Communities along the Narragansett Bay were devastated. Storm surges of 12 feet to 15 feet destroyed most of the homes along the coast there. A surge of nearly 20 feet left Providence drowning in water. Years later, the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier would be built to try to shield the capital city from repeat devastation.
The Eastern Seaboard from the Carolinas to Cape Cod is in the path of Irene, a Category 3 storm that moved north from the Bahamas Thursday. North Carolina will take the initial blow, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said. If the hurricane follows its projected path, it will make landfall along the state’s Outer Banks on Saturday.
A line worker with South Carolina Electric and Gas repairs a power pole that was snapped by the first wind and rain from Hurricane Irene, blocking the only way in and out of Folly Beach in Charleston, S.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2011.
The National Hurricane Center warned of tidal surges 5 to 10 feet high in North Carolina, accompanied by “destructive and life-threatening waves.” Irene could inundate the state’s coastal areas with 5 to 10 inches of rain Saturday and up to a dozen inches in some locations, forecasters said.
More than 50 million people live in the projected path of the storm. Some forecasters have said Irene has an outside chance of growing into a Category 4 storm, with sustained winds topping 131 mph. But current forecasts predict that it will diminish to a Category 2 storm after pummeling North Carolina, with sustained winds up to 110 mph as it plows into Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut declared states of emergency. In North Carolina, Gov. Bev Perdue included all counties east of Interstate 95, roughly a quarter of the state. Officials set up emergency shelters inland. The Federal Emergency Management Agency established depots for food, water, generators, baby formula and other emergency supplies at Ft. Bragg, N.C.; McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.; and Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts.
The latest projections show Irene making landfall Saturday along the Outer Banks between Morehead City, N.C., and Cape Hatteras before pushing north.
A construction worker works on the World Trade Center site on Friday, Aug. 26, 2011 in New York. New York Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri has ordered all work at New York City construction sites to be suspended from 2 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Monday due to Hurricane Irene.