August 27, 2011|4:41 pm
(Photo: REUTERS/Molly Riley)
Trees are affected by the early effects of Hurricane Irene on the empty board walk in Ocean City, Maryland, August 27, 2011. National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said Irene, which will be the first significant hurricane to affect the populous Northeast in decades, would lash the Atlantic seaboard with tropical storm-force winds and a "huge swath of rain" from the Carolinas to New England.
Hurricane Irene continues to move up the East Coast with sustained winds of 85 mph. The storm has already claimed the lives of four people since making landfall in the U.S. Saturday morning.
Nearly 1 million people are also without electricity in North Carolina and Virginia, as reported by CNN.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Irene was 95 miles south of Norfolk, Va., as of 2 p.m. EST. It was moving across eastern North Carolina. Though Irene hit the East Coast as a category one storm, FEMA and U.S. officials have warned that the risks are still great and that it can still be devastating.
Don't focus too much on the category, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Saturday morning at a press briefing. "If you're in a hurricane, you're in a hurricane. It's a big deal."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York has warned that the hurricane is not a joke.
"We can joke about this on Monday. But until then, it's a matter of life and death," he said.
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Irene is a large tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 90 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 260 miles.
Six to 12 inches of rain is expected this weekend. Combined with heavy rains over the past few weeks, Irene could cause flash floods and uprooting of trees.
(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)
A surfer walks into the water ahead of Hurricane Irene's arrival, on Rockaway Beach in New York August 27, 2011. Mayor Michael Bloomberg sternly warned New Yorkers to follow the city's unprecedented mandatory evacuation orders on Saturday, saying approaching Hurricane Irene is "life-threatening" and "not a joke." Some 370,000 of the city's more than 8 million residents are under orders to leave their homes in low-lying and waterfront areas, largely in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens and in the financial district in downtown Manhattan.
(Photo: REUTERS/Kena Betancur)
A man puts up a sign after taping up windows for protection against the winds at his business in Hoboken New Jersey, New York August 27, 2011. Some 370,000 of the city's more than 8 million residents are under orders to leave their homes in low-lying and waterfront areas, largely in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens and in the financial district in downtown Manhattan.
(Photo: REUTERS/Randall Hill)
A pedestrian crosses an open area as Hurricane Irene passes through Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina August 27, 2011. Hurricane Irene howled ashore in North Carolina with heavy winds, rain and surf on Saturday on a path threatening the densely populated U.S. East Coast with flooding and power outages.
(Photo: REUTERS/Steve Nesius)
The steeple of the Bogue Banks Baptist Church leans over with the wind as the backside of Hurricane Irene comes ashore near Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, August 27, 2011. Hurricane Irene howled ashore in North Carolina with heavy winds, rain and surf on Saturday on a path threatening the densely populated U.S. East Coast with flooding and power outages.
(Photo: REUTERS/Randall Hill)
An onlooker takes a photo of a fallen gas canopy hit by Hurricane Irene, at the Atlantic Food Mart in Surf City, N.C., August, 27, 2011.
(Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
A woman walks through the Times Square subway station in this August 27, 2011 file photo.