Fox News: East Coast Braces for Hurricane Irene as Storm’s Outer Bands Hit Carolinas

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.

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