President Obama cut his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard short to return to Washington as the east coast of the US braces itself for Hurricane Irene. More than two million people have now been told to evacuate their homes and seven states, from North Carolina to Connecticut, have declared an emergency.
The National Hurricane Center has downgraded Irene from a category two to a category one hurricane but has said that the hurricane will still usher in winds of 90mph. More than 200,000 people have evacuated coastal areas in North Carolina where water levels are expected to rise dramatically.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for people living in low-lying areas. The Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg, which has also ordered evacuations for 370,000 people living at the city’s edges, said:
“We’ve never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn’t be doing it now if we didn’t think this storm had the potential to be very serious”.
The New York Times reports that the city has also taken the unprecedented step of shutting down its entire transport network: “all 468 subway stations and 840 miles of track”, as well as bus networks and commuter trains. Overnight, New Yorkers have reportedly been stocking up on food and water as the storm is predicted to hit the city at 11am (US time).
To track the hurricane, click here or follow the National Hurricane Center @NHC_Atlantic on Twitter.