Hurricane Irene already has left at least four people dead in its wicked path northward after slamming into the North Carolina coast Saturday and knocking out electricity for nearly a quarter of a million residents.
Falling trees, a car accident and dangerously high waves claimed at least four victims, and a fifth person died of a heart attack that was attributed to the storm.
The brightest news is that the storm was downgraded to the "Hurricane One” level,” meaning its winds are no more than 90 miles (approximately 150 kilometers) an hour. Forecasters have not ruled out the possibility that it may get stronger as it travels over the Atlantic Ocean and picks up more rain clouds and high winds.
Cities on or near the East Coast – Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston – lay in its projected path.
New York City, which is not a usual target of hurricanes, is preparing for the worst, and 700,000 people already are in the stages of preparing for evacuation, more than half of them under a mandatory order.
A power shutdown and flooding could shut down the city’s massive subway system.
“This is a life-threatening storm,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Train service was cancelled along the East Coast, JFK and other local airports closed down, and Major League baseball games were postponed.