The East Coast is feeling the brunt of Hurricane Irene Friday in advance of what is expected to be a weekend of violent weather for an area stretch from the Carolinas to Massachusetts.
Irene has the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage all along a densely populated arc that includes Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and beyond, writes the Associated Press. At least 65 million people were in its projected track. (Related: Follow These Steps to Keep Yourself Safe During a Natural Disaster.)
President Obama is cutting his vacation short because of Hurricane Irene. He'll return to Washington tonight instead of Saturday afternoon.
A White House spokesman said the president thought it would be more prudent for him to be at the White House.
Earlier, Obama addressed the nation about Irene and preparations.
Speaking from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, President Obama said the government is "bringing all federal resources to bear" in response to Irene's potential damage.
"I cannot stress this highly enough, if you are in the projected path of this hurricane you have to take precautions now," he said.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano reached out to governors and mayors from regions potentially impacted by Hurricane Irene to discuss coordinated federal, state and local preparedness efforts including.
Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate also convened a call with state, local and tribal emergency management officials, homeland security advisors, elected officials and tribal leaders in regions potentially affected by Hurricane Irene as the storm travels up the East Coast — highlighting that while hurricanes can inflict significant damage, federal, state, local and tribal authorities all play critical roles in preparing for, and responding to, storms like this through coordinated resiliency efforts, and the priority is to ensure that all steps are taken to protect potentially impacted communities.
Winds are expected to pick up later. Thousands of people have already lost power as the fringes of the storm begin raking the shore.
Risks from Irene's were many, including surging seas, drenching rains, flash floods and high winds.
"We're going to have damages. We just don't know how bad," said FEMA's Craig Fugate. "This is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time."
Writes the Associated Press:
"By late Friday morning, Irene remained a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds near 105 mph. Little change in strength was expected by the time Irene reaches the North Carolina coast on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said."
In New York, residents were told Thursday to be prepared to move elsewhere.
A lot of New York's subways and other infrastructure are underground, making it subject to flooding in the event of an unusually strong storm surge or heavy rains, says AP.
(Photo: Associated PressAP)