Hurricane Irene Strikes Eastern Seaboard

Now a tropical storm, it left 12 deaths and millions without power --but pulled its punch on NYC.

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Ocean City, Md., prepares for Hurricane Irene to pass. (Getty)

Update as of 12:03 p.m., ET, Aug. 28: Irene has been downgraded to a tropical storm and is heading into New England. CNN reports over 3 million people in 5 states without power and, sadly, at least 12 fatalities. Aside from some minor flooding and downed trees, New York City was left relatively unscathed.

Update as of 1:08 a.m., ET, Aug. 28: Latest reports indicate that Hurricane Irene is still a Category 1 storm, with the eye located off the coast of Maryland. The total death toll has climbed to 10, with dozens of homes damaged by storm-related tornadoes and hundreds of thousands of people without power. It is expected to reach New York City by 9 a.m., and then continue its lumbering climb up the Eastern seaboard. More information is available at CNN and The Washington Post.

Update as of 3:56 p.m., ET, Aug. 27: CNN is reporting that Hurricane Irene has left nearly 1 million without power in North Carolina and Virginia. Among the casualties today have been at least three people who perished in North Carolina and one in Virginia. Five homes were destroyed by a hurricane-spawned tornado in Tyrrell County, N.C. The storm, which is heading up the Eastern Seaboard, remains a Category 1.

Earlier:

Hurricane Irene battered the Eastern Seaboard on Saturday, whipping the North Carolina coast with 115-mile-per-hour winds and thrashing waves as it roiled northward, the Associated Press reported. 

Farther north, authorities readied a massive shutdown of trains and airports, with 2 million people ordered out of the way.

The center of the storm, which was estimated to be some 500 miles wide, passed over North Carolina's Outer Banks for its official landfall just after 7:30 a.m. EDT. The hurricane's vast reach traced the East Coast from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to just below Cape Cod. Tropical storm conditions battered Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, with the worst to come.

In the Northeast, unaccustomed to tropical weather of any strength, authorities made plans to bring the basic structures of travel grinding to a halt. The New York City subway, the largest in the United States, was making its last runs at noon, and all five area airports were accepting only a few final hours' worth of flights … 

Irene weakened slightly, with sustained winds down to 85 mph from about 100 a day earlier, making it a Category 1, the least threatening on the scale. The National Hurricane Center reported gusts of 115 mph and waves as high as 7 feet. 

We can only hope that the storm continues to weaken and does much less damage than predicted.

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