Shutters nailed up as Irene rips across US
Hurricane Irene howled ashore in North Carolina with heavy winds, rain and surf last night on a path threatening the densely populated US east coast with flooding and power outages.
The eye of the storm crossed the North Carolina coast near Cape Lookout at around 7.30am local time, leaving one man dead, hit by a falling tree. In Virginia, an 11-year-old boy was reported killed in a similar manner.
Irene was moving north-northeast along the coast and was expected to remain a hurricane as it hit the mid-Atlantic states last night and New England today.
With winds of 140kmh, Irene had weakened to a Category One hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, but forecasters warned that it remained a large and dangerous storm.
New York City ordered unprecedented evacuations and transit shutdowns as states from the Carolinas to Maine declared emergencies due to Irene, whose nearly 960km width guaranteed a stormy weekend for tens of millions of people.
At daybreak on the North Carolina coast, winds howled through the power lines, felling trees, rain fell in sheets and streets were flooded.
In the port and holiday city of Wilmington, North Carolina, the streets were empty and the air was filled with the sound of pine trees cracking.
One man in the Wilmington area was washed away and feared to have drowned.
The local power company estimated 125,000 customers throughout coastal North Carolina were without power.
US President Barack Obama said the storm could be "extremely dangerous and costly" for a nation that recalls the destruction in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina.