CAPE LOOKOUT, NC (RNN) – Four are dead in North Carolina and Virginia as Hurricane Irene continues a devastating crawl up the East Coast. More than 670,000 people are without electricity in the impacted states as the storm continues to creep north at 13 mph, packing 85 mph winds. It has dumped more than 15 inches of rain on the area and has not weakened since making landfall as a Category 1 storm at about 7:30 a.m. EST.
In a Saturday afternoon briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “this is just the beginning.” Minutes later, NOAA extended tropical storm warnings north to Canada.
Three are dead in North Carolina and another is missing in the Cape Fear River. A child died Saturday afternoon in Virginia when a tree fell into an apartment building.
A North Carolina man is missing after he either fell or jumped into the Cape Fear River and New Hanover County, NC, WECT-TV reported.
Milton Robinson, 27, has been missing since about 12:30 a.m. Saturday when three men reported he jumped into the river at a boat ramp.
Fire and rescue crews are unable to search for the man until the water is declared safe for rescue efforts. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office is searching the banks until then.
New York’s mass transit system shut down at noon, the first time it has ever closed because of weather. Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned residents Saturday that downtown Manhattan may have no electricity after the storm. Winds of 70-75 mph are forecast for New York, probably arriving late Saturday, and tropical storm conditions could last up to 20 hours.
“If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, it could be fatal,” Bloomberg warned in a Saturday briefing.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said high winds, heavy rains, flooding and extensive damage to the state’s barrier islands were likely.
“Take no comfort if you’re watching the Weather Channel or whatever and saw that the storm has weakened,” he said. “Things are very ominous for our state.”
New Jersey has deployed 1,500 National Guard members to work with the state police and other authorities, he said.
All New York City-airports are closed and The Associated Press is reporting that more than 8,300 flights have been canceled across the nation, which could affect millions of travelers and cause delays that could take days to untangle.
President Barack Obama visited FEMA headquarters Saturday afternoon to offer encouragement to the workers and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that 6,500 active-duty troops will be available for relief assistance. Obama has declared states of emergency in states as far north as New Hampshire and Rhode Island. A federal emergency declaration enables federal support to the state during the storm.
The 2 a.m. advisory reported maximum sustained winds of 85 mph with higher gusts; the storm is moving north-northeast at 13 mph.
Article Courtesy of WOIO 19 Action News