Hurricane Irene will cause horrendous travel conditions in the U.S. East Coast region Saturday and Sunday, one official said.
As airlines canceled hundreds of flights, Virginia Gov. Bog McDonnell said Saturday will be a horrendous day for travel as forecasters predict the storm will be one of the worst to ever hit the region.
President Barack Obama urged Americans to get out of the way of the approaching storm. Don't wait, don't delay, he said. I cannot stress this highly enough, if you are in the projected path of this hurricane you have to take precautions now.
The Obama family will cut short their vacation on Martha's Vineyard and leave for home Friday night, before the storm is expected to hit. The president has been in contact with White House staffers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency about the now Category 2 storm that has virtually the entire upper two-thirds of the U.S. east coastal region in its path.
Hurricane Ike in 2008 was the last hurricane to make U.S. landfall. Forecasters said Irene holds the potential for an extraordinary effect up the East Coast's I-95 corridor from North Carolina to New York to Boston -- threatening flooding, power outages, high wind and heavy rain.
Obama said FEMA is already deploying teams throughout the East Coast region along the storm's projected path. The agency has 10 million liters of water, millions of meals and thousands of cots and blankets ready if needed, the Associated Press said.
All indications point to this being a historic hurricane, said Obama.
Airlines have been closely monitoring the storm and several carriers have started canceling flights.
By early afternoon Friday, rain bands began hitting North Carolina. Dangerous surge, wind and widespread destruction are likely to push northward. Residents have been urged to evacuate immediately.
The Weather Channel said Irene posed 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.
The center of Irene is expected to make landfall as a Category 2 or Category 3 storm Saturday morning in eastern North Carolina, most likely between Morehead City and Cape Hatteras. Hurricane conditions are expected for much of Saturday in the area, before the storm moves up the East Coast, likely striking or having direct impact in major U.S. cities including Boston, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Although forecasts often change as time progresses with such storms, the path of Hurricane Irene has become clearer in the past 24 hours and as yet it doesn't appear the storm will push out to sea before punishing the East Coast throughout the weekend.