(Photo: Reuters/Molly Riley)
Four deaths caused by Hurricane Irene’s relentless battering along the shores of North Carolina are the first casualties being reported today; one of the tragic deaths is reportedly a young child.
Paramedics in North Carolina say a man was killed outside his home by a tree limb blown down by hurricane-force winds. A second man died after suffering a heart attack while putting plywood over the windows of his Onslow County, N.C., home, according to the News & Observer.
A falling tree limb killed a third man in Nash County, N.C. An 11-year-old boy died in Newport News, Va., after a tree fell on an apartment complex, reports CBS affiliate WTKR.
"Don't wait. Don't delay," said President Obama in a statement Saturday, who decided to cut short his summer vacation by a day and return to Washington.
"I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now."
Hurricane Irene howled ashore as a category one level storm in North Carolina on Saturday. Its highly anticipated path triggered unprecedented evacuations in New York and threatened the densely populated East Coast with flooding, storm surges, high winds, and massive power outages.
More than 2 million people have been told to evacuate to safer places, and New York City ordered the nation's biggest subway system to shut down for the first time because of the anticipated flooding. Irene will hit New York City on Saturday night.
The New York metro is one of the world's biggest with 468 stations served by some 6,380 subway cars. There are also about 5,900 buses.
Emergency officials say Saturday morning brought whipping, sustained winds of more than 85 mph as Irene made it first hit and will continue its run up the Eastern Seaboard.
Massive waves hammered the shores and beaches bringing in enormous amounts of flooding to the North Carolina area.
Emergency officials told The Christian Post that flooding is most severe around the eastern North Carolina sounds. Some of the worst flooding happened in New Bern, where the storm pushed water from the Pamlico Sound up the Neuse River and into the city of about 30,000 people.
The National Hurricane Center warned this afternoon that “an extremely dangerous storm tide will raise water levels by as much as 5 to 9 feet in the hurricane warning areas in North Carolina and other areas up the coast."
"Near the coastline, the storm surge will be accompanied by large, destructive, and life-threatening waves,” according to the center’s latest update.
In North Carolina, 269,520 Progress Energy customers and 8,252 Duke Energy customers are now without power. In Virginia, Dominion Electric said 219,674 customers had lost power, according to local news reports.
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue told reporters that rescuers and damage assessment teams are standing by as Hurricane Irene moves across the state.
As Irene roars up the coast, the Virginia Department of Transportation is reporting nearly 300,000 people without power in the southeast portion of the state.
Forecasters say the core of Irene would pass near or over the North Carolina coast Saturday morning, roll along the mid-Atlantic coast Saturday night and move over southern New England on Sunday.
The Washington Post reports today that Irene is also expected to make its closest pass to the Washington D.C. area Saturday evening and toward midnight. The rain and wind will pick up markedly across the area later today.
Hurricane Irene brought international travel chaos Saturday with hundreds of flights canceled while New York shut down its transport system fearing widespread flooding.
The FAA announced airlines have canceled flights to New York, Washington and other eastern U.S. airports as far south as Miami, Fla., due to Irene's rampage up the east coast.
British Airways, Air France, American Airlines, Continental and major Asian airlines canceled scores of flights to and from Europe and Asia, while hundreds of domestic flights fell victim to the killer storm. New York's J.F. Kennedy airport canceled all arrivals and departures were restricted before the arrival of the storm. The region's Newark and La Guardia airports saw similar chaos.
An Air France spokesman in Paris said that the company's flights to and from New York were not expected to resume before Monday.