The National Weather Service predicts that Hurricane Irene’s path will take it almost directly over New York City this weekend, wreaking havoc up and down the eastern seaboard.
Currently the storm is a Category 2, with sustained winds up to 105 miles per hour, and will hit North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Saturday. The storm is then predicted to track to the north, gradually losing energy as it skirts the east coast.
Governors from North Carolina to Connecticut have declared states of emergency, and President Barack Obama has preemptively signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina authorizing FEMA to take on a greater role in evacuations and response. Obama will make a statement on the hurricane at 11:30 a.m. today, and may sign similar disaster declarations for other states.
The New York City transit system will be shut down once winds reach 39 miles per hour, according to the MTA — likely on Saturday — and thousands of flights have already been cancelled.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that the city will decide whether to evacuate residents from low-lying areas by 8am Saturday. NYC.gov and the online evacuation zone map have been crashing due to high traffic, according to the city.
The Weather Service puts the chances of hurricane force winds (greater than 74 mph) hitting New York City at 8 per cent — depending on how much the storm weakens after it hits North Carolina and how close the eye passes near the city.
UPDATE 10:30: FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate advises that long-term power outages as well as flash flooding is possible across the Northeast. 5-10 inches of rain may fall on already saturated ground, increasing the likelihood of fallen trees.
UPDATE 11:00: The latest forecast from the National Weather Service has IRENE weakening to 105 mph before hitting North Carolina, and it will continue to lose steam as it travels up the east coast.
The chance of hurricane force winds hitting New York City has fallen to 5 per cent.
President Obama was briefed on the hurricane this morning, and will make a statement at 11:30.
UPDATE 12:20: President Obama said “all indications point to this being a historic hurricane,” and encouraged those in the path of the storm to take action immediately to prepare for Irene.
“I cannot stress this highly enough,” he said. “If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don’t wait. Don’t delay.”
UPDATE 12:50: The White House just announced that President Obama will cut short his Martha’s Vineyard a day early because of the approaching storm — leaving the island tonight instead of tomorrow.
The latest forecast map is below: