Just a day away from hitting North Carolina, the east coast is bracing for what has been called one of the strongest storms to hit the area in history and leaders in key urban cities do not want residents to take the power of Mother Nature for granted. They are urging residents to take cover.
"Waiting until the last minute is not a smart thing to do … This is life-threatening,"" New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned during a press conference Friday afternoon. “We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
Bloomberg issued a mandatory evacuation for low-lying coastal areas in New York where about 270,000 residents live, including in Battery Park City, Coney Island, Brooklyn Beach, the Rockaways and shore areas of Staten Island.
Additionally, starting at 12 noon on Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered a shutdown of all public subways, buses and trains in New York.
Meteorologists say that rain from Irene’s outer bands already reached the southeastern part of North Carolina and South Carolina on Friday, and currently the category 2 storm has sustained winds of 110 mph. Those speeds are expected to pick up as the hurricane heads north and Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is not taking any chances on warning residents in advance, either.
"While we cannot predict with certainty the path of the hurricane, residents must be ready," said Mayor Gray. "That means residents need to have a plan that they can activate. If they do not have a plan, they can go to hsema.dc.gov to learn what is needed. These storms can cause power outages that may last through several days. Residents should have an adequate supply of medications, infant formula, water, fresh batteries and other essentials."
The mayor informed at a press conference on Friday afternoon that the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia are expecting heavy rain, flash floods and high winds from the storm.
As many as 65 million people on the East coast could be affected.
Many tourists have already left areas including Washington D.C. where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to be highlighted in a memorial dedication ceremony on Sunday.
The events were canceled due to the hurricane, scheduled to take a similar path as Hurricane Gloria did in 1985. Gloria affected the Bahamas and made landfall in North Carolina and Long Island. The storm caused around $900 million in damages along the East Coast.
Damages from Irene could be as much as $13.9 billion.
Stay tuned to BET.com for more coverage on Hurricane Irene.
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