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Hurricane Irene lashes US coast

Hurricane Irene howled ashore in North Carolina with heavy winds, rain and surf on Saturday on a path threatening the densely populated US East Coast with flooding and power outages.

world Updated: Aug 27, 2011 23:32 IST

Hurricane Irene howled ashore in North Carolina with heavy winds, rain and surf on Saturday 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 around 7:30am EDT (1130 GMT), forecasters at the US National Hurricane Center said. Irene was moving north-northeast along the coast and was expected to remain a hurricane as it hit the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday night and New England on Sunday.

With winds of 140 km per hour, Irene had weakened to a Category 1 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 960 km 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 some 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 unidentified man in the Wilmington area was washed away and feared to have drowned, emergency workers said.

Progress Energy, the local electrical utility, projected 125,000 customers throughout coastal North Carolina were without power.