Americans brace for ‘hurricane of historic proportions’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington/New York : As millions of Americans along the US east coast braced for what President Barack Obama warned could be a “hurricane of historic proportions” the nation’s most populous city New York issued its first mandatory evacuation order.

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About 250,000 people are affected by the evacuation order covering low-lying areas of all five of the city’s boroughs, including Queens, home to the largest concentration of Indian Americans in the US with a population of over 130,000.

Authorities warned of widespread and prolonged power outages, flash flooding and storm surges that could flood low-lying communities and possibly inundate subway systems as hurricane Irene churned toward an anticipated 7 a.m. landfall between Beaufort and Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

The New York Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to shut down its system at noon Saturday. JFK International Airport will be closed to incoming international flights staring at noon Saturday.

New Jersey Transit also will shut down at noon, and the transit system in Philadelphia will halt service at 12:30 a.m. Boston said it intends to keep its system operating. The Garden State Parkway in New Jersey was closing 98 miles of southbound lanes Friday night.

Hurricane warnings were in effect from Little River Inlet, North Carolina, to Nantucket, Massachusetts, according to CNN.

An ocean surge of up to 11 feet is possible in coastal North Carolina, tearing away beaches and probably damaging homes, businesses and other structures before sliding up the East Coast to New England, Hurricane Centre Director Bill Read said.

Storm surges of 4 feet to 8 feet are possible in the Virginia Tidewater region, with 3- to 6-foot surges farther north along the New Jersey shore, Read said.

Amtrak, Greyhound and major US airlines began cancelling hundreds of flights in the Washington area, New York metro area and Boston.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])