Hurricane Irene has the makings of a historic storm. Rain and high winds have hit the Carolinas, while New York City has ordered a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas. People up and down the Eastern Seaboard are stocking up and battening down for a storm that could wreak havoc along the coast. We’ll be following the hurricane as it makes its way north. Check out the hurricane tracker here,, see Friday’s updates below, or click here for Saturday’s live updates.
9:49 p.m. N.Y. to close airports at noon Saturday
We interrupt the termporary hiatus to report that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said that the five main New York area airports are closed to arriving flights as of noon Saturday, the Associated Press is reporting. The suspension affects John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports in New York City, Stewart International in the city’s northern suburbs and Newark Liberty International and Teterboro in New Jersey.
The goal is to avoid stranding passengers at airports, since mass transit systems will be shut, the AP said.
6:52 p.m. Temporary hiatus
We’ll be back tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. sharp for more hurricane news. At the moment, I need to run home and stock up on some provisions beyond the lone bottle of ketchup sitting in my fridge. Check in on the homepage for the most recent hurricane news. Thanks for being with us tonight and stay safe!
6:37 p.m. Worry shifts from wind to rain
While Hurricane Irene’s winds have been decreasing in strength as she moves north, a new concern has sprung up: damage from the amount of water moving with the storm.
As one BlogPost reader noted: “It's not the wind to fear in North Carolina -- building codes over the last 20 years have required 110-130mph standards. The primary issue is flooding and storm surge. Irene should arrive in Nag's Head just about high tide — 6:45PM — adding 4 feet to the surge. With the storm surge, wind and rain it will get very ugly. Irene is moving at 14mph. Because of the size of the storm it is feared that that hurricane conditions may persist in some areas for 10 hours or more.”
That notion was backed up by Hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross who noted on NBC that while weakened, Irene “is carrying so much water and it is pushing so much water that that is the new threat.”
6:39 p.m. State of emergency official in Washington
Mayor Vincent Gray officially declared it:
6:25 p.m. Amtrak cancels all trains in Northeast Corridor Sunday
From Amtrak’s Facebook page:
As Hurricane Irene continues to advance, Amtrak is canceling more East Coast trains with service reductions beginning on Saturday, Aug. 27 and no trains operating in the Northeast on Sunday, Aug. 28.
The cancellations include service along the Northeast Corridor (Washington – Boston), the Keystone Corridor (New York – Harrisburg, Pa.), the Springfield Line (New Haven, Conn. – Springfield, Mass.), the Empire Service (New York – Albany), the Vermonter (St. Albans, Vt. – Washington), the Piedmont Service (Raleigh – Charlotte), the Northeast Regional services in Virginia and several long-distance trains.
6:19 p.m. Expecting moms need to prepare for the hurricane
The Capital Weather Gang has some great tips for being prepared, with specific suggestions for different people. My favorite? The tip for expecting mothers. Who knew?
Women who are due to give birth in the next week or so may want to have their hospital bags packed a little early. The drop in barometric pressure associated with the hurricane could cause a woman's water to break early, and some obstetricians have warned patients that they may end up going to the hospital sooner. Hospital officials say they are aware that lowering of atmospheric pressure tends to result in a spike in births. "It's along the same line as what happens when there's a full moon,"said Matt Brock, a spokesman for Washington Hospital Center.
6:08 p.m. Maryland’s Bay Bridge to close
Maryland’s Mayor Martin O’Malley is urging people to leave the Eastern Shore as soon as possible, as the Bay Bridge will likely be shut by Saturday evening. The Post’s John Wagner reports that the barrier island of Ocean City, Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County and low-lying areas in Wicomico County are all ordered to evacuate.
5:49 p.m. Hurricane Irene from space
Astronaut Ron Garan, who is currently at the International Space Station, has been sending back incredible shots of Irene from space. Here’s one he snapped a few hours ago:
5:33 p.m. President Obama declares a state of emergency in New York
The President’s office announced that “an emergency exists in the State of New York.” Obama ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts starting on Friday and continuing through the weekend as a result of Irene.
FEMA will now be responsible for emergency response in the counties of Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond, Nassau, and Suffolk.
5:08 p.m. Hurricane-induced photographic beauty
The light over the last few days has offered some incredible conditions for photography. A case in point is this image below, snapped Friday morning at the Alexandria, Va. waterfront. It looks like some surreal drawing rather than an actual photograph:
4:33 p.m. Mayor Bloomberg orders evacuation by 5 p.m. Saturday
4:13 p.m. As much as 15 inches of rainfall expected
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration predicts that most cities should expect between 3-7 inches of rainfall or more, while the Outer Banks could get as much as 15 inches. The agency created a visualization of predicted rainfall over the weekend:
3:39 p.m. Jet Blue, Southwest, Delta cancel flights Saturday
JetBlue canceled 882 flights, most at New York’s JFK airport and Boston’s Logan airport, between today and Monday, Aug. 29, ahead of the hurricane.
Frontier Airline will cancel flights Saturday through Monday in Washington, New York and Boston.
Delta will cancel all flights out of the three New York airports, La Guardia, JFK and Newark.
American Airlines is offering travelers to change their flight if they are traveling from now until Monday, Aug. 29, and plans to cancel 265 flights.
Though other cancellations have yet to be announced Baltimore airport announced there would likely be widespread delays and cancellations through the weeekend.
3:07 p.m. New York City residents ordered to evacuate
The New York City mayor’s office is urging 270,000 residents to evacuate Friday ahead of the storm. All public transportation will be shut down Saturday. An evacuation map divides the city into zones most likely in need of evacuation. The mayor’s office is recommending Zone A leave their homes, which are mainly in low-lying areas such as Battery Park City, Coney Island and the Rockaways. Mayor Bloomberg said it is the first time in the history of New York that a mandatory evacuation has been ordered.
2:55 p.m. Damages could run into the billions
A hurricane watch has been issued for seven states and could affect up to 55 million people. The New York Times financial blog predicts that if a Category 2 storm were to hit New York City, the financial damage would be around $35 billion, or roughly half of the city’s annual budget.
The Capital Weather Gang looks back at the history of hurricanes in the Northeast. There have not been many over the years, but there have been some deadly ones, such as the hurricane of 1821. The New York City Web site recounts:
“The tide rose 13 feet in one hour and inundated wharves, causing the East River to converge into the Hudson River across lower Manhattan as far north as Canal Street. However, few deaths were attributed to the storm because flooding was concentrated in neighborhoods with far fewer homes than exist today.”
2:45 p.m. Mayor Gray will declare state of emergency in Washington
In Washington, Mayor Vincent Gray said on Twitter that he would declare a state of emergency in District “to free up access to funds for response.” He also said that the Metro may halt above-ground service.
Gray held an emergency meeting with his cabinet and officials from the D.C. National Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency Friday afternoon to discuss storm preparations and said that the city’s emergency operations center will open at 7 a.m. Saturday.
The city of Alexandria and Arlington County declared local state of emergencies because of Irene.
2:30 p.m. “A historic hurricane”
Here’s what’s happening so far:
The core of the hurricane is expected to hit the Carolinas on Friday night. A hurricane warning went into effect for much of the East Coast. President Obama cut his trip to Martha’s Vineyard short and urged residents to obey evacuation plans, saying, “All indications point to this being a historic hurricane.”
The hurricane has weakened slightly, from a Category 3 storm to a Category 2, meaning winds move at 96 to 110 mph instead of 111 to 130 mph.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the storm will hit New York on Saturday as a Category 1 storm, with winds of 74 mph or more.
NASA caught this photo of Irene as it moved up from the Caribbean: