Hurricane Irene made landfall on Saturday morning along the southern coast of North Carolina, causing damage, devastation and a number of deaths as it made its way slowly northwards up the East Coast of America.
So far Irene has been reported to have contributed to the deaths of at least five people, and by Saturday afternoon almost a million homes and businesses had suffered power outages.
The District of Colombia issued a flash flood warning telling residents to expect about four to eight inches of rain, which is higher than previously touted.
In North Carolina a number of deaths occurred. One man suffered a fatal heart attack as he prepared for the storm nailing plywood to his windows. Another died when he lost control of his car, which hydroplaned and smashed into a tree. A third died when he was hit by a falling tree limb.
In other areas an 11-year-old boy has died in Newport when a tree fell on the building he was sheltering in. Another man in Brunswick County died when a tree, uprooted by Irene crashed onto his car.
The hurricane is continuing on its path towards New York City, which is in almost complete lock-down Saturday evening. The greatest fear for the city comes from the storm surges, expected to coincide with Sunday morning’s high tide. It is feared water will be driven inland over low-lying areas such as the vulnerable Rockaway Peninsula and through the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan’s Battery Park and Financial District.
Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated from specified areas across New York, and the narrow streets combined with towering sky scrapers have some commentators expecting winds to be driven between buildings at up to 100 mph.
The entire public transportation system including subways, commuter rail lines and buses have shut down throughout Saturday, with many saying service is unlikely to return until Tuesday.
Power outages are expected throughout the destructive path of Irene, and in Lower Manhattan, including Wall Street, many are expecting Con Edison to shut off electricity in the area as the storm surges arrive.
In Lower Manhattan a storm surge of about five to six feet is expected, however, waves as high as six to eight feet are anticipated on top of that.