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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 1 April, 2020
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Hurricane Irene claims first victim as it lashes North Carolina

The storm has hit land along the east coast of the United States with North Carolina so far the hardest hit.

Image: Gerry Broome/AP/Press Association Images

THE FIRST DEATH caused by Hurricane Irene hitting the east coast of the United States has been confirmed as it blew strong winds and rain onto land this afternoon.

Authorities in North Carolina say Hurricane Irene blew a large tree limb onto a man, killing him. Nash County Emergency Management Director Brian Brantley said the man was walking outside his home in a rural area of the county around 10:20 a.m. Saturday when the limb hit him.

Paramedics were called to the scene, but the man was already dead. Wind gusts in the area had reached more than 60 mph as Irene’s outer bands passed through.

North Carolina

Irene opened its assault on the Eastern Seaboard this morning by lashing the North Carolina coast with wind topping 90 mph and pounding shoreline homes with waves. Farther north, authorities readied a massive shutdown of trains and airports, with 2 million people ordered out of the way.

The centre of the storm passed over North Carolina’s Outer Banks for its official landfall just after 7:30 a.m. EDT. The hurricane’s vast reach traced the East Coast from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to just below Cape Cod.

Irene weakened slightly, with sustained winds down to 85 mph from about 100 a day earlier, making it a Category 1, the least threatening on the scale. Parts of North Carolina recorded gusts as high as 94, however.

Hurricane-force winds arrived near Jacksonville, N.C., at first light, and wind-whipped rain lashed the resort town of Nags Head. Tall waves covered the beach, and the surf pushed as high as the backs of some of the houses and hotels fronting the strand.

New York

In the Northeast, unaccustomed to tropical weather of any strength, authorities made plans to bring the basic structures of travel grinding to a halt. The New York City subway, the largest in the United States, was making its last runs at noon, and all five area airports were accepting only a few final hours’ worth of flights.

The New York transit system carries 5 million people on weekdays, fewer on weekends, and has never been shut for weather. Transit systems in New Jersey and Philadelphia also announced plans to shut down. Washington declared a state of emergency, days after it had evacuated for an earthquake.

New York City ordered 300,000 people to leave low-lying areas, including the Battery Park City neighborhood at the southern tip of Manhattan, the beachfront Rockaways in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn. But it was not clear how many people would get out, or how they would do it.

Authorities in New York said they would not arrest people who chose to stay, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned on Friday: “If you don’t follow this, people may die.”

Evacuation orders

In all, evacuation orders covered about 2.3 million people, including 1 million in New Jersey, 315,000 in Maryland, 300,000 in North Carolina, 200,000 in Virginia and 100,000 in Delaware. Authorities and experts said it was probably the most people ever threatened by a single storm in the United States.

Forecasters said the core of Irene would roll up the mid-Atlantic coast Saturday night and over southern New England on Sunday.

North of the Outer Banks, the storm pounded the Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia, a jagged network of inlets and rivers that floods easily. Emergency officials there were less worried about the wind and more about storm surge, the high waves that accompany a hurricane. Gas stations there were low on fuel, and grocery stores scrambled to keep water and bread on the shelves.

In Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell ordered an evacuation of coastal areas on the peninsula that the state shares with Maryland and Virginia. In Atlantic City, N.J., all 11 casinos announced they would shut down for only the third time since gambling became legal there 33 years ago.

In Baltimore’s Fells Point, one of the city’s oldest waterfront neighborhoods, people filled sandbags and placed them at building entrances. A few miles away at the Port of Baltimore, vehicles and cranes continued to unload huge cargo ships that were rushing to offload and get away from the storm.

A steady rain fell on the boardwalk at Ocean City, Md., where a small amusement park was shut down and darkened — including a ride called the Hurricane. Businesses were boarded up, many painted with messages like “Irene don’t be mean!”

Travel chaos

Meanwhile, as the storm hits land, travellers across the country are facing days of grief ahead as thousands of flights are being cancelled because of Hurricane Irene.

Airlines are scrapping more than 8,300 flights this weekend, grounding passengers as Irene sweeps up the East Coast.

All New York City-area airports will be closed to arriving flights beginning at noon on Saturday, when the city’s public transportation system shuts down. The biggest airlines, United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc., canceled thousands of flights each.

The airlines declined to say how many passengers would be affected by the hurricane.

Bus and train service has also been hit. Greyhound has suspended service between Richmond, Va. and Boston. Amtrak is reducing its Northeast schedule on Saturday and cancelling all trains from Washington to Boston on Sunday.

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Associated Press

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