Hurricane Irene 2011 is preparing to make a path of destruction and havoc up the U.S. East Coast beginning late Friday in North Carolina before hitting New York and Boston and other major cities on Saturday and Sunday.
Coastal regions were being evacuated in Delaware Friday, and states of emergency have been declared at states all along the coast line, from North Carolina and Virginia to New York and New Jersey as the potential storm of a lifetime gets ready to make landfall or come close on the U.S.
A Hurricane Warning is now in effect up the coast to Sandy Hook, N.J., just south of New York, including the Delaware Bay and part of the Chesapeake Bay. Evacuations are under way down the shore. Hurricane Irene's winds were at 110 miles per hour Friday morning.
The last hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Ike in 2008. Officials and forecasters warned of significant and serious threat all along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast path projected for Irene, with flooding, high winds, power outages, downed trees and storm surge along low-lying coastal areas.
Irene is poised to make a run up the highly-populated I-95 corridor, and major cities including New York, Hartford, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. are projected for either a direct strike or hurricane and tropical storm force impact by late Sunday.
There's going to be flooding, there's going to be heavy rain, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Rusnak, in the Virginia Pilot. It's just a matter of the exact track because it's still two days out and it's still too early to try to figure out out what kind of numbers to give here.
Updated forecast models on Friday show that poses an extraordinary threat and is one that no one has yet experienced from North Carolina to the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast to New England according to The Weather Channel.
All the major metropolitan areas along the northeast are going to be impacted, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read told Reuters Insider. Being a large hurricane, tropical storm-force winds will extend far inland.
Residents in the populated northeast corridor made runs on grocery stores, stocking up for the storm beginning Thursday and into Friday, while others packed bags and fled the area for an extended weekend.
In New Jersey, evacuation plans were being reviewed, sandbags were being prepared residents were being cautioned, while in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sought on Thursday to establish plans in the effort to avoid controversy that erupted late last year after the city's slow response to a historic blizzard.
Updated models Friday suggest specific timing will be: Virginia (late Saturday); Washington, D.C. (late Saturday); New York (late Saturday through Sunday); and Boston (Sunday).
Irene weakened slightly Friday morning but the storm remains a high-end Category 2 and is expected to re-strengthen later today into a Category 3 storm before assaulting the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and New England. Major metropolitan areas that rarely get hit by a storm of hurricane strength are in the line of fire.
Bloomberg said he could decide as early as Friday night to evacuate New Yorkers at risk in low-lying areas, including Coney Island in Brooklyn, and that the city's transportation system could be shut down if forecasts continue to suggest New York will get hit hard by Irene.
Current forecast models updated Friday show Irene is likely to make landfall in the Mid-Atlantic region by early Sunday morning as a strong Category 2 storm with winds of 100 miles per hour or more before reaching New York -- and possibly making a rare direct hit on the city late Sunday while still at hurricane strength.
Weather experts are labeling Irene an extraordinary threat from eastern North Carolina to southern New England. This is a particularly threatening situation and it's best for people to be on alert, said Dr. Rick Knabb and senior meteorologist Stu Ostro at The Weather Channel.
Computer models are trending toward a forecast solution of rare potency for portions of the Northeast, according to the The Weather Channel experts. They say Irene will be a serious and multi-hazard threat for the major metropolitan areas which include major cities Norfolk, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford and Boston.
Irene will come close to the North Carolina coast late Friday night, with impact through Saturday. Northeast impacts will last through Monday as the Irene drops to tropical storm strength before departing the U.S.
Irene is threatening to become the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. East Coast since Wilma struck Florida in 2005. Hurricane Ike was the last storm to make U.S. landfall, in 2008.
Updated Hurricane Irene potential impacts as of Friday morning:
--The center of Irene is forecast to make landfall as a borderline Category 2 or Category 3 storm Saturday morning in eastern North Carolina, most likely between Morehead City and Hatteras. Tropical storm conditions are possible as far inland as I-95 in North Carolina, with hurricane conditions extending up to 40 miles away from the North Carolina coast.
--Parts of Highway 12 in North Carolina's Outer Banks are likely to be washed away from the storm from surge and lashing waves.
--Rain and wind is forecast to pick up in eastern Virginia late Friday night and into Saturday, before advancing up to Maryland, Delaware, and southern New Jersey Saturday. Hurricane conditions will be likely along the coastal line of these states, with tropical storm conditions likely as far inland as I-95.
--Inland areas of Pennsylvania and Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are likely to experience tropical storm conditions with heavy, pounding rains and wind. Flashing flooding will be possible, as will power outages.
--By late Saturday night and into Sunday, the New York metropolitan area will experience its worst conditions, with destructive wind, heavy flooding rain and storm surge with coastal flooding. Power outages will be likely and tropical storm conditions will extend inland into western New Jersey and upstate into the Hudson River Valley.
View Hurricane in a larger map