Mandatory evacuations are in place for coastal counties in at least four states as the outer bands of Hurricane Irene reached North and South Carolina early Friday morning.
Some 65 million people along the U.S. East Coast are bracing for the wrath of Irene, which is expected to be the strongest hurricane to strike the East Coast in seven years and one that could inflict billions in damages in an arc from Washington to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
The main thrust of the storm wasn’t expected in North Carolina until sometime Saturday, but surging storm waves were already hitting the state’s Outer Banks, where thousands of tourists and locals have fled.
Irene weakened slightly Friday, dropping down to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds near 110 mph. But some re-strengthening was possible and the storm was expected to be between a Category 2 and 3 storm as it reached North Carolina’s coast, the National Hurricane Center said.