Irene’s power shut down electricity for ONE MILLION PEOPLE! See if you’ll be affected after the jump!!
Emma Rabid

North Carolina and Virginia dealt with widespread power outages, flooding, deaths and damage Saturday as Hurricane Irene continued its northward trek along the East Coast, with Norfolk, Virginia, and the Hampton Roads area next in its sights.

Nearly 1 million power customers were without electricity in North Carolina and Virginia because of the storm Saturday afternoon, according to state and utility reports. More than a million people had evacuated from New Jersey alone.

Irene made landfall about 7:30 a.m. Saturday near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center, ripping off roofs and causing other damage to homes and businesses in Hyde and Jones counties in North Carolina, according to the state emergency management agency.

Heavy rain and a flooding storm surge cut off thousands of residents in Beaufort, Carteret and Pamlico counties, the state Emergency Management Agency reported.

A tornado spawned by Irene destroyed five homes and seriously damaged a business in Tyrrell County, Sheriff Darryl Liverman told CNN affiliate WITN. Vance County authorities published photos of a home damaged when a tree fell on it and crashed through a bedroom ceiling. It was unclear if anyone was injured.

Every road in Jones County was blocked by downed trees, the state emergency management agency reported, and a storm shelter there lost part of its roof, forcing the evacuation of 75 people who had sought shelter from the storm. Road crews across the state were trying to clear roads, but trees kept falling around them, the state transportation department said.

The storm caused at least three deaths in North Carolina and one in Virginia. On Saturday, a motorist drove into standing water, lost control and hit a tree in Pitt County. In Nash County, a man died when a tree limb fell on him as he was feeding livestock. Another man died Friday preparing his Onslow County home for Irene, emergency managers said.

In Newport News, Virginia, a child died after a tree fell on an apartment building, police said.

As of 3 p.m. ET Saturday, the storm was centered about 95 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia, moving northward at 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm remained a Category 1 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. Hurricane-force winds extended as far as 90 miles from the center, the agency said, with tropical storm-force winds spreading out 260 miles.

While some were discounting the weakening storm, government officials were clearly concerned that people would dismiss warnings of potentially devastating flooding and ignore calls to evacuate or prepare.

“Some of our most devastating floods have occurred in tropical storms,” FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said.

President Barack Obama continued to closely monitor the storm, according to White House officials. He toured FEMA’s operations center Saturday morning. Meanwhile, defense officials told 6,500 service members to prepare to deploy to storm-ravaged regions should state officials need them.

The Red Cross sheltered 13,000 people in 150 shelters Friday night, President Gail McGovern said. More than two-thirds of the nonprofit’s emergency response vehicles had deployed to the East Coast, she said.

“We’re now in the middle of what could be one of the largest responses that the Red Cross operations has had in recent memory,” she said.
In Virginia, where the U.S. Navy had sent much of its fleet to sea to avoid the storm’s wrath, the state Department of Emergency Management said 393,024 electricity customers were already without power.

In Chesapeake, Virginia, iReporter Kathi Vanpeeren said Irene’s winds at Virginia Beach were violent Saturday morning.

“I’m not panicked at this point, just kind of watchful and keeping an eye on what’s going on outside,” she said. “Everybody around me has pretty much
prepared the best we can.”

Communities further north also continued to prepare for Irene’s arrival. Rainfall totals of 5 inches to 10 inches, with some isolated amounts of a foot, are possible, as are storm surges of up to 8 feet as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the weather service warned.

Airlines canceled thousands of flights and airports in Philadelphia, Washington, New York and Boston all planned to suspend operations for at least some part of the weekend.

Emergency officials in Maryland closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel until further notice, the state Emergency Management Agency reported.

Authorities in New York shut down the city’s massive transit system at noon ET, and they continued to warn residents of low-lying areas to evacuate immediately. The city ordered an unprecedented evacuation of 370,000 residents on Friday.

“No matter what the track is, no matter how much it weakens, this is a life-threatening storm,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Saturday.
The storm slapped North Carolina overnight and into Saturday morning with thrashing winds that knocked down trees and power lines and left around 516,000 power customers in the dark, utility Progress Energy and state emergency managers reported. Storm surges of up to 9 feet occurred in coastal areas.
On Ocracoke Island, at the southern end of the Outer Banks, a couple of hundred residents riding out the storm lost power early Saturday morning. Their power lines are strung along poles mounted on the highest sand dunes.

“The power went off for good around 5 a.m.,” said Clayton Gaskill, who had been trying to keep the island’s tiny radio station, WOVV, running through the night. “We won’t be back on the air until the storm goes by, because there’s no shelter for the portable generators,” he said in a text message to CNN.
A tornado touched down in Tyrrell County around 1 a.m., said Mark Van Sciver of the North Carolina Joint Information Center. Atlantic Beach avoided the full brunt of the storm. Still, walls of water roared onto land, flooding streets and parking lots.

A hotel facade ripped away and part of a pier fell into the ocean.

In New Jersey, 1,500 National Guard members fanned out across the state and Gov. Chris Christie said more than one million people living along the Jersey shore had evacuated. But he said authorities were worried about 600 high-rise residents in Atlantic City who were refusing to leave their homes.
“Allow us to protect you,” he pleaded.

In New York, Bloomberg pleaded for residents once again Saturday to take Irene seriously.

He said low-lying coastal areas under serious threat included Coney Island and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, Far Rockaway and Broad Channel in Queens, South Beach, Midland Beach, and other parts of Staten Island, Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, and sections of the Bronx.

“We have never done a mandatory evacuation before, and we wouldn’t be doing this now if we didn’t think the storm had the potential to be very serious.”