Authorities on the east coast of the US, from North Carolina to New York City, are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene this weekend.
The first hurricane of the Atlantic season is a category three storm, with wind speed reported to be 115mph or higher , and expected to get stronger as it gets closer to land.
Irene, which is currently over the Bahamas, has already caused a lot of destruction in the Caribbean.
States of emergency have already been declared in Virginia, New Jersey and in eastern North Carolina.
Hurricane Irene is now 580 miles wide and will reportedly reach category four ahead of its expected arrival in North Carolina this Saturday.
It is then expected to weaken as it moves up the eastern coast of the U.S., losing power until it becomes a category two storm on Sunday.
In Virginia, the US Navy has ordered its Second Fleet to leave Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on Thursday morning and head out to sea.
Vice-Adm Daniel Holloway, the fleet’s commander said “The forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge is too great to keep the ships in port. There is a much greater potential of not only the ships being damaged, but also the pier infrastructure.”
He also added “Having the ships under way also makes them ready and available to respond to any national tasking, including any needed disaster response efforts.”
North Carolina emergency officials have extended evacuation orders to include more than 200,000 tourists and residents in three different coastal counties.
People visiting North Carolina have been leaving the area in droves, while residents are preparing to ride out the storm by stocking up on food, water and fuel.
In New York City, more than 1,000 miles north of the storm’s location on Thursday morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged residents of low-lying and beach-front areas to find a place to stay on higher ground ahead of Irene’s anticipated arrival on Sunday.
The New York Police Department, which is the largest police station in America, moved 50 small boats to low-lying areas to be ready for rescue missions.
The exact track of the hurricane is unknown, but US emergency officials said the east coast from the Carolinas to New England was preparing for its impact.
Craig Fugate, the head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency says “This is going to be a big storm. Just because it hits one area doesn’t mean it’s not going to cause damage further up the coast.”
PHOTO CREDIT: RON GARAN