Jacksonville, NC –

Hurricane Irene has weakened slightly, with sustained winds topping out at 100 mph, the pressure at 951mb, and is approximately 300 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras North Carolina and the outer banks.  It has also slowed down slightly, which increases the duration of storm surges and torrential rains causing severe flooding.

Philadelphia has announced the anticipated shut down of its public transit system, and New York City already announced a partial or full shutdown for fear of not wanting to put employees and police in danger by forcing them to operate and staff stations and trains.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has ordered a mandatory evacuation of low lying parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn with estimates showing the storm surge could cause flooding up to 10-15 blocks farther inland than its normal shoreline.

Airlines have already begun rerouting passengers around northeast airports who are scheduled to fly transatlantic flights from the central and western US.  Lines of tourists trying to beat the impending closures and flight cancellations and get out of the affected areas are building at airports around the region.

In all, five states so far have declared states of emergency; Amtrak has suspended all trains north of Virginia starting either today or tomorrow; and tropical force winds are predicted to reach inland over 100 miles as it passes over Cape Hatteras, NC.

Especially worrisome are the many harbors and tributary rivers on which big northeastern cities sit. The eye of Irene is expected to pass barely to the east of each city, meaning the dominant northeast quadrant of the storm will be able to pack maximum storm surge flooding into those cities like Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City.

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