President Declares Disasters In Irene’s Path

President Obama has signed emergency declarations for the following states: North Carolina, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maryland, according to the White House.

The declarations come as Hurricane Irene barrels up the East Coast. The storm has been blamed for at least eight deaths. By Saturday evening, Irene was moving northward slowly, with wind speed of 81 mph. Gusts were 98 mph. Some 2 million were without power in Virginia alone.

President Obama visits the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters in Washington, to monitor the latest on Hurricane Irene.

“Don’t delay.  We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst.  All of us have to take this storm seriously,” Obama says. “You need to listen to your state and local officials, and if you are given an evacuation order, please follow it.  Just to underscore this point:  We ordered an aircraft carrier group out to sea to avoid this storm yesterday. So if you’re in the way of this hurricane, you should be preparing now.”

Obama was briefed ahead of the hurricane by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate, and senior White House officials about preparations being made for the storm’s impact, the White House says.

FEMA has been deploying its Incident Management Assistance Teams to staging areas in communities up and down the coast, the president says. FEMA has millions of liters of water, millions of meals, and tens of thousands of cots and blankets, along with other supplies, pre-positioned along the Eastern Seaboard, he says.  The American Red Cross has already begun preparing shelters in North Carolina and other states, Obama adds.

The government is offering the latest updates on the progression of Hurricane Irene at Hurricanes.gov.

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