Irene begins trek up Atlantic coast

More than 500,000 without power, thousands in shelters, floods and winds blamed for damages, deaths


A plodding Hurricane Irene spread rain and winds from North Carolina to New York Saturday afternoon knocking out power to nearly a half million people in Virginia and North Carolina and pushing water into coastal towns.

Preparing for the storm as it moved north along the coast, emergency officials north to New England have declared emergencies, evacuating residents from low-lying areas, closing bridges and tunnels and suspending mass transit. Hundreds of flights to the eastern metropolitan airports have also been canceled.

In North Carolina alone, more than 60 shelters were set up Friday night and Saturday for residents who were evacuated from their homes. In Morehead City, NC, the Salvation Army was serving food Saturday to hundreds of survivors in three different shelters. In Kinston, NC, some residents had to be rescued from rooftops. In Swanquarter, NC, storm water topped a levy.

In a Virginia Beach neighborhood, five homes were destroyed by a suspected tornado Saturday NBC's Washington bureau reported.

The storm has also turned deadly as at least four people have lost their lives. One person was killed in North Carolina Saturday morning when they were hit by a falling branch, another lost control of their car on rain-slick roads, a toddler was killed when a tree hit an apartment building in Newport News, Va., and a swimmer was caught in rip tides off Virginia Beach Friday afternoon.

Irene may also responsible for the creation of a new island according to the Dare County Shoreline Management Commission which reported Saturday morning that a new island may have been created along Hatteras Island.

Although the hurricane is weaker than originally forecast, emergency officials warned the public that the danger of this storm will be the length of time it takes to move up the coast and its potential for flooding. Jesse Ferrell of compared Irene to a "severe thunderstorm that goes on for 12 hours." More of 10-inches of rain had been measured in Morehead City by 2 p.m. Saturday.

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