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One of two people rescued from a sailboat, right, uses a line to make their way onto the beach on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk, Virgina yesterday. AP Photo/TheVirginian-Pilot, Bill Tiernan

Water levels rise as New York braces for Irene's impact

Two million people are without electricity on the east coast as high winds and rough seas take at least ten lives…

THE RAIN AND the wind  has already hit New York as the city braces itself for the impact of Hurricane Irene.

There are flooding fears for the city are forecasters warn that water levels are rising along the Atlantic coast. According to the New York Times the city is in shutdown, with transport systems closed and almost 400,000 people evacuated.

Last night the mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg told New Yorkers that it was too late to evacuate and that people should be taking precautions to ride out the storm. He also said that major flooding was a real possibility today.

The National Hurricane Center says water levels are rising from Irene’s storm surge as the hurricane heads up the mid-Atlantic coast.

The center said that Irene’s sustained winds were topping out at 80 mph with higher gusts and the storm is moving north-northeast at 17 mph. At 7am Irish time itwas centered about 195 miles south-southwest of New York City.

The Miami center adds that water levels have been rising rapidly with storm surge values of 3.2 feet at Ocean City, Maryland, 3.4 feet at Cape May, New Jersey, and 3.5 feet at New York Harbour. The Port of New York and the Port of Long Island Sound have been shut down.

Forecasters say Irene made first U.S. landfall in North Carolina on Saturday morning and is expected to do so again about midday Sunday (local time) near Long Island, N.Y. The Long Island Power Authority is already reporting more than 74,000 customers affected by power outages:

Image: Long Island Power Authority

At least ten people are now thought to have died as a result of high winds and rough seas. According to the Associated Press an 11-year-old boy was killed when a tree crashed through a Virginia apartment building in Newport News. Winds were gusting well above 60 mph in the area. Two others in Virginia also were killed by falling tree limbs.

A surfer was killed off the central Florida coast after being tossed off his board by heavy waves caused by Irene. Also, a New Jersey tourist died when he drowned in the rough surf.

A man was crushed by a large limb that blew off a tree in Nash County, North Carolina, outside Raleigh. The Los Angeles Times reports that five people have died in North Carolina in Irene related incidents.

CNN reports that authorities in Maryland are no longer sending vehicles in response to 911 calls because of dangerously high winds.

Virginia, Maryland and Washington are have been hit but power outages. An estimated 2 million people were without electricity in the early hours of this morning

Petrol prices have risen overnight in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as drivers fill up before leaving town, while some stations have reported that they’ve run out of fuel.

- Additional reporting by AP

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