Hurricane Irene Maryland: Obama Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Storm

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Hurrciane Irene
Hurricane Irene is on course to affect almost the entire U.S. East Coast -- a major and dangerous storm. NOAA handout showing the visible shortwave infrared image taken by the GOES-13 satellite, with a water vapor filter. The storm started to skirt the South/North Carolina coast Saturday morning.

President Obama issued a state of emergency for Maryland on Saturday as the state's coast began to experience the first of Hurricane Irene's rain bands and deadly winds.

Obama signed the declaration, which provided federal aid access to Maryland, as Irene made her way towards the state -- killing at least five people on her way.  Maryland is the ninth state to receive a federal state of emergency declaration.

This is a massive undertaking and people are really doing their jobs and doing it well, Maryland governor Martin O'Malley said about the federal aid to The Weather Channel. Everything in the preparation phase of this has gone very well. ... Now we're awaiting landfall ourselves.

Early reports show that the Category 1 storm -- with winds of 80 mph -- has killed at least five people in North Carolina and Virginia, including an 11-year-old boy in Virginia. The storm was still moving north-northeast at 13 mph in the 5 p.m. advisory.

The most recent update shows that a lot of rain, and subsequent flooding, could be the bigger threat than wind speeds.

Maryland won't experience the worst of Irene until early Sunday morning, but Ocean City and western Maryland towns on the Chesapeake Bay have already begun to experience heavy rainfall and small storm surges.

Throughout Maryland steady rainfall has come down, as well as gusts of 35 to 40 mph in certain areas.

Ocean City ordered a mandatory evacuation on Friday and shut down entrance into the city early Saturday morning. The city believes it has successfully evacuated the majority of its residents, leaving only about 200 left in the city, according to CNN.

Counties near the Chesapeake Bay could be hit worst by rain and winds, especially if the storm hits when the Bay is at high tide. The Bay's high tide is at 4 a.m. and current estimates put the storm passing by the area between 2 and 4 a.m.  A combination of the two could create massive waves and deadly storm surges to low-lying areas.

The majority of the East Coast has been saturated over recent weeks with rain -- leaving it particularly vulnerable to more rain and high winds. As more rain comes in it leads to flooding and winds could knock down trees -- as the hurricane did in Virginia.

The dangerous flooding scenario led the state to issue flash flood warnings for the following counties: Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, northern Baltimore, Prince George's, and St. Mary's.

The Maryland Transit Administration has suspended transit service ahead of Irene's arrival. Light rail service will be halted at 6 p.m. due to safety concerns. An aerial CNN view showed highways, including I-95, slowed down to a halt due to heavy traffic.

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