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Hurricane Irene Coverage: Air Force Hurricane Hunters Flying Continuous Missions Into Hurricane Irene; EMS Hunker Down in Ocean City; New York City Bridges Closed Down; North Carolina Highways Flooded

Aired August 28, 2011 - 02:00   ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour, Irene is soaking New York, and with the Category 1 storm just a few hours away, the New York City area is under a tornado watch.

Again, pictures from Times Square there. Doesn't look like there are many people enjoying the lights of Times Square right now. Authorities shut down the Port of New York, and the Port for Long Island Sound late Saturday.

Several major roads are closed, including the Palisades Interstate Parkway, and the lower level of the George Washington Bridge, shut down in both directions.

As far as power is concerned, the company that services the city, Con Edison, says a decision as to whether or not to cut electric service will be made sometime after 2:00 a.m. Power crews from other states are already on their way to New York to help with post-Irene recovery.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this message for residents who are riding out the storm.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I) , NEW YORK CITY: The time for evacuation is over. Everyone should now go inside and be prepared to stay inside until weather conditions improve, which won't likely be until Sunday afternoon. But we will get through this next 24 hours, I assure you. The city has taken exhaustive steps to prepare for whatever comes our way, and the very best first responders are going to work nonstop through the night to make sure we get through the night as safely as possible.


ALLEN: Welcome, everyone, from the United States and around the world as we continue our live coverage, as Hurricane Irene slowly makes its presence up the U.S. East Coast. The mayor of New York also saying, you don't want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for this one. Certainly there have been deaths in this storm. We just received a report of a 10th death just moments ago. It seems many people have been killed in car crashes and with trees falling.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's set the stage for you now.

This hurricane, of course, came ashore in North Carolina. It is now moving through and past the Mid-Atlantic states, Maryland, and is heading towards the Northeast. We also want to point out that there has been trouble in Hoboken, New Jersey, with flooding.

As Chris Lawrence is standing by, we just want to say that the mayor of Hoboken has actually sent out a Tweet, saying one of the shelters there in Hoboken had to be evacuated. That is the Tweet this morning: "Hoboken residents, faces the worst-case scenario. Flooding has begun. Moving Wallace shelter residents to state in East Rutherford." That is from the mayor just a little while ago.

Let's go to Chris Lawrence, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, where this storm hopefully, Chris, is beginning -- you're beginning to see the tail end of this, and Maryland will wake up tomorrow and see what damage has been left behind.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, Drew. I think anyone who's still up at this point is probably starting, just starting to breathe a little bit sigh of relief. What have we seen so far during this storm? Well, all the things you would expect to see in a hurricane. You've seen very high wind. But we have not seen the kind of catastrophic wind that flattens a number of homes and destroys neighborhoods.

We've also seen a tremendous amount of water and rain. But we haven't seen the kind of flooding that can submerge huge areas, like we've seen in some other storms. And while we're not out of the woods yet and the storm has to push out for the next hour or two, people are at least starting to take a look around and say, you know, for what we thought this could be, say maybe even three days ago, two or three days ago, we may have come out of it, you know, better than expected, you know, when they're able to look back on it, Drew.

GRIFFIN: Chris, thanks a lot. And again, you're seeing the wind continue to die down a little bit from the last time we talked to you, about 20 minutes or so ago?

LAWRENCE: It does. It comes and goes. And I was talking to our meteorologist, Chad Myers, about this earlier in the night, when sometimes we barely give it a sort of hold on, and the rain is coming sideways, and it would die down. He sort of explained, you can be between some of the bands of this storm.

Even though the eye of the hurricane is heading to the east of us, in the Atlantic Ocean, passing over, we're getting some of the outer bands of those storms. And as one band comes through, all of a sudden we'll get a dumping of rain, the wind will really kick up. And as that band passes, there's some of this lull where you get slightly lighter rain, you know, the wind dies down.

It won't be really until probably 5:00 in the morning until it's completely through, 5:00, 6:00 in the morning. That's right around when the sun will start coming up. That's when people can start getting out, some of the emergency crews can start driving around and really getting a handle on how much, if any, damage was done to the area.

GRIFFIN: Chris, let me ask you one more question. Because you are standing there in the water. If I remember correctly, when you started this gig a couple hours ago, or many hours ago now, was that dry?

LAWRENCE: No, there was water here. I started on the other side, where the piers are, where they had cleared all the boats out. When we got here at about 10:00 this morning, it was all sandy beach. The seagulls were sitting out there on the beach. As the day went on and the storm started to kick up, you know, that quickly rose up. And then when we were over here earlier, I think we actually -- probably earlier in the night the storm surge here was actually higher than it is right now.

The thing is, the high tide here is going to hit about 3:30, 3:40 this morning. So that is something people here have really been keeping their eye on, what's it going to be like when the high tide comes back in. Because you've got a lot of homes, not only built right here near the beach, but you've also got a lot of homes built up on those cliffs. Not that the water could ever reach that high, but how much water will come through, and how much soil erosion will there be that could perhaps damage the foundation that a lot of those homes are built on.

GRIFFIN: OK, Chris, thanks a lot.

I just want to remind people, it says Chesapeake Beach, you're in Chesapeake Bay, which is inland, really south and east of Washington, D.C.

Chris, thanks a lot for that.

ALLEN: Karen Maginnis is in CNN Hurricane Headquarters. She can give us the latest track of the storm.

Karen, even though Chris is holding on and doesn't seem to be in intense winds right now, we want to remind people that this storm has 80 mile-per-hour sustained winds at this point.

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The National Hurricane Center has issued their 2:00 advisory. And just to update you, it's position puts it about 25 miles away from Ocean City and about less than 200 miles from New York City. And already at Kennedy Airport they're seeing wind gusts over 50 miles an hour. LaGuardia, just about 50 miles an hour. Newport News, they had a 68-mile-an-hour wind gust.

Now, the system, right now, is still tracking toward the north- northeast. It has picked up some speed. It is now moving one mile an hour faster than it was the last time we reported. That was moving north-northeast at just about 16 miles an hour, now it's moving 17 miles an hour. The position is still way down here.

Here is New York City. And we've got more than -- or just about 200 miles for this system to travel. So about mid-morning, New York City will be under the influence of hurricane-force winds. The bulk of the intensity of the storm is to the north and to the west. So pretty much across this Mid-Atlantic region, and into southern New England. You are under the gun over the next 12 to 20 hours, with the water moving onshore, the ground has already been saturated, we're looking at a storm surge of three to five feet in some of these bays. Could be much higher than that, but there's a higher than normal, astronomical tide.

And right around Long Island, that materializes at about 7:00 in the morning. You can see the flow here is generally speaking from the east and the northeast. We've seen a little bit of a shift, and one of our correspondents here noted that. Rather than coming from the east and northeast, the component is more from the north, and eventually that will swing around from the west and southwest.

So we've got a whole different component along the southern edge of this system, as opposed to places like Philadelphia and for New York City, as well.

But I want to mention one other thing, and that is our situation taking place at the St. Mary's State Park. Now, there is a dam here that it is not in danger of being breached, but there could be water flowing over the top of that dam. There are about 28 or so residents that live there. They've already seen seven inches at that area, that state park, this 250-acre lake. And should this receive more rainfall, we're looking at some of that water spilling over. So it's not going to burst, but we could see it overflow.

So some of the folks who are downstream from this may experience severe flooding. They have issued a code red, which means there could be an emergency situation that develops here. So I wanted to clarify that even more.

But as I mentioned, the latest update from the National Hurricane Center still 80-mile-an-hour winds, still a Category 1, and by mid- morning, New York City, but until then places like Bunion, North Carolina, 14 inches of rain so far from Hurricane Irene.

GRIFFIN: Karen, that latest update, does it say anything about a decrease expected or when this will turn into a tropical storm?

MAGINNIS: Well, we do look at the future, kind of outlook, or forecast from the National Hurricane Center. And they're saying by the time it reaches that New England area, right around Boston, it may be a tropical storm force. I hesitate to say that, because once you hear tropical storm, you think, oh, no longer I have to worry. It's not a hurricane anymore. But indeed at tropical storm force intensity, we could still see the potential for heavy downpours, as well as wind damage, power outages, structural damage, and the possibility for tornadoes. There's a tornado watch across this region as well.

GRIFFIN: All right. Thanks.

ALLEN: And you mentioned Boston, Karen. Boston has joined New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Baltimore suspending all transit service. No subway or bus service on Sunday. MAGINNIS: Not surprising.

ALLEN: Everyone preparing.

Up next here, as folks ran away from the storm, some are going straight into it. I'll speak live with a hurricane hunter. How do they do that? He'll tell us what he saw coming up next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Water's going to be this high, I'm 6-foot 4- inches, so you're looking at, you know, eight-feet high tide. We're done, man.


ALLEN: We continue to track the storm from every angle. And now we're going to talk with the folks that go up and fly into them. Can't imagine.

Lieutenant Colonel Sean Pierce from the Air Force's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the Hurricane Hunters, is now on the line from Savannah, Georgia.

Thank you so much for being with us, sir. We really appreciate it. We know your team just went up about an hour ago. What can you tell us about what they experienced?


Well, actually, we have had crews in the air 24 hours a day in Irene for the last nine days. So we've been tracking it since the Southeast Caribbean.

ALLEN: So what's the latest?

PIERCE: Well, it's just chugging right along, and one of the unusual things about Irene that we've noticed is that it hasn't varied much in intensity. And so what we've seen is just a consistent wide band activity associated with it. And I'm sure you've discussed that on your show already, the effects of the storm surge, and as well as the rainfall in the area.

GRIFFIN: You know, I have been a little bit surprised at this sustained 80-mile-an-hour wind has continued even as it has moved up this coast. I would think that as the water is much colder than where it came from, why do you believe that this wind keeps at that rate?

PIERCE: Well, there's a number of factors involved with that. Primarily the interaction with the land mass itself, as it starts to interact with the jet stream. And the air mass off the coast as well. So there's a number of things that make it somewhat unpredictable.

Oddly enough, that's usually what we experience in the front end of the airplane, at least, as pilots, you never really know what to expect from flight to flight, even on the same storm.

ALLEN: What's the latest that you're hearing as far as from your team that took the last flight? It's amazing to everyone, Lieutenant Colonel, that you folks go right into these storms like this. What are they saying as far as flying into the eye at this point?

PIERCE: Well, as I mentioned, it's been fairly consistent. And actually, at our standard flight altitude, which is 10,000 feet for this size of a storm, it has been remarkably calm. So it's been somewhat routine for the crews.

However, you know, the importance of meeting all of these fixed missions, as it makes its way up the coast, it gets more and more critical, especially as it prepares to make landfall. We want to make sure we arm the Hurricane Center with the most accurate data possible, so they can provide those timely updates and warnings.

GRIFFIN: This is expected to really get into land, and it has hit land several times now, but I'm talking about moving from the ocean onto land as it goes into New England, sometime later this afternoon. Is that when the flights stop?

PIERCE: Typically it will, yes. Or at least be delayed for a period of time. If we expect that it could possibly pass out over the water, that's the end of the mission for us.

ALLEN: What can we expect -- what can the people expect as this starts to move toward back to shore, in this populated areas with the very front leading edge of this storm? Isn't that the part of it that's usually the most severe, would you say so, with this hurricane?

PIERCE: Typically it's actually the northeast quadrant of the storm that provides the most aggressive winds, and convective activity. In this situation, it's actually fortunate that that's out on the seaward side.

ALLEN: When we talk about the hurricane hunters that go up, what are we talking about as far as your frequency? Are you going up every couple of hours? Every hour? And how many airplanes are we talking about?

PIERCE: Well, actually, we have 10 C-130 aircraft that are dedicated to this mission. And anytime the storm passes within 300 nautical miles of a coastal community, we're going to be on what we call three hourlies. That essentially is a fixed mission, where we fix the point in space where the center of the eye of the hurricane is, and its current atmospheric conditions. We do that on a three-hourly basis, until it either makes landfall or moves back out to sea further than 300 miles.

So that requires us to essentially have an airplane in the air at all times, based on where we're flying the local missions out of.

ALLEN: I know you're used to getting this question. From those of us who don't even like a little bit of turbulence, just help us appreciate the fact of what those flights are like when you're up there.

PIERCE: Yes, they can be dramatic. It can be aggressive, as you pass over quite a substantial pressure gradient, as you move from the outside of the eye wall into the eye of the hurricane. That tends to make the airplane react in ways that keeps you on your toes, that's for sure.

ALLEN: I can imagine. We appreciate the work that you do and the information that you're able to provide the National Hurricane Center. And, of course, those of us here at CNN that rely on that.

Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Pierce, from the Hurricane Hunters talking with us from Savannah.

GRIFFIN: You know, I was just checking the latest. We had the 2:00 a.m. numbers that Karen was talking about, with the National Hurricane Center. I saw a positive little snippet in there, Sunday night this thing is going to be in Eastern Canada. It is Sunday now. So we're going to be done with this thing by the end of this day, no matter what happens. I just wanted to point out that the largest rainfall, right now, 14 inches of rain in a town called Bunion, North Carolina, which is --

ALLEN: Fourteen inches.

GRIFFIN: -- east of Greenville. That is a lot of rain on a little town.

ALLEN: Five deaths reported in North Carolina. And, of course, many people waiting to see what happens in their area.

We've been talking a lot about New York City, just because there's so many people that are living there. You have to wonder if anyone's getting any sleep at this point. It's after 2:00 in the morning. Of course, Times Square really never sleeps, at least the lights don't. But we can imagine not too many people there below at this moment in the night.

GRIFFIN: You know, this very second, workers are getting down to Ground Zero in New York, as the storm begins to hit Lower Manhattan. Poppy Harlow is standing by, right after this break we're going to go down to Poppy and see what's going on.


GRIFFIN: We're going to go up to New York. You know, all the flights in and out of New York have been -- in fact, I have tried to book flights through Tuesday. I have to get to New York. You can't really book a flight, Tuesday, Wednesday.

ALLEN: I can understand that. Can you imagine how backed up it's going to be?

GRIFFIN: Yes, it's going to be bad.

Right now, workers are securing Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. Why? That's where we're going to talk to Poppy Harlow right now, she's near Battery Park -- Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes, Drew, I'm going to get to Ground Zero in just a minute. That is a very important thing to cover. That is just a few blocks from where we are now.

But I want to give folks some perspective. The rain has just started coming down again. We had a little half hour of rest from the storm here in New York, the winds are picking up again. We're on the southern-most tip of Manhattan. This is Battery Park.

And, Drew, not long ago, this was the Hudson River. This was not the original part of Manhattan. This was actually man-made from what they dug out of the ground when they built the original World Trade Center back in the '70s.

Obviously, there's concern about this area. It is at sea level. Looking at the water right now, we've only got about an inch of water on the ground. But the concern here, why you see every single apartment building, every small business, every restaurant sandbagged up is because the water can rise very quickly. It surrounds us here on all three sides.

Talking about Ground Zero, and that is very important, because we're not far from there. It is a construction site. And if you think of where the memorial is, you've got the Freedom Tower and you've got another tower, Tower 4 being built. The rest of it, Drew, I was just walking inside there myself last week for a story, it's like a bathtub. It goes down stories and stories as they are doing construction. The fear is that if we do see major flooding in the city, it's going to fill up with water.

The bigger concern is all the cranes. Actually, right now, the world's biggest crane is in the center of Ground Zero. I saw it with my own eyes. I just went down there. I talked to construction workers who are sticking around all night to secure Ground Zero. They are sandbagging. I said what is up with the cranes? Are they secure? They said we've been working throughout the week to secure the cranes. They assured me that they are all secure, because you've got them -- Drew, you know how it works in construction, they're jacked up the side of the buildings that they're building.

So the concern is with the wind, could that knock over the cranes. And falling cranes are a huge hazard to anyone around. They assured me they are secured. They dismantled the biggest crane in the center of Ground Zero because of the winds like this. Because of winds that are picking up.

As Karen said earlier, still about 200 miles away, that is where the eye of this storm is from New York City. We're expecting to start getting the brunt about it about 4:00 a.m. It's going to carry on through Sunday morning, into Sunday afternoon.

Flooding has started right over there, right across the Hudson River, in Hoboken, New Jersey. There has been some pretty serious flooding. They've had to evacuate a shelter there. That is the only one we've heard of. Power outages continue. That was expected. What we're waiting to hear from Con Edison, the power supplier here in lower Manhattan, is is the flooding going to get so bad they have to cut of power completely from this area to prevent any severe damage when they start the power back up. We should have word on that anytime, they tell us, between now and about 10:00 a.m., Drew.

GRIFFIN: Poppy, they are still deciding whether they're going to do that or not? I thought that was a done deal, they were actually going to cut the power of in advance?

HARLOW: Yes. Latest I've heard, unless you've heard something else, is they're still deciding if they're going to do that. Think what that would do. That means all the elevators are cut off; a lot of buildings already shutting them down. That would mean all the elevators are cutoff. Everyone's power, last I heard from Mayor Bloomberg's press conference, when we talked to Con Edison about an hour ago, they're still making that decision. Of course, we'll let everyone know as soon as we can. But that would cut off power to hundreds of thousands of people in New York.

I've seen, and as I said, about an hour ago, no regular vehicles on the road, all emergency vehicles, and Con Edison vehicles. That's all. And the Con Edison folks, I can assure you are out here right now, they're working, they're assessing the situation.

Drew, I had to evacuate. I don't live that far from here. I got a phone call tonight, an automated message, which a lot of New Yorkers got, that said, we're warning you that we may have to cut off your power to prevent further damage. And we'll let you know when we do. I haven't gotten that second call yet.

GRIFFIN: Poppy, let me ask your photographer to pan around towards the lower end of Manhattan there and ask you this question. We just did visit with --

HARLOW: Let's pan around here. Sure.

GRIFFIN: We just visited with Susan Candiotti. She was pretty much getting blown down out there on Long Island. As the crow flies, she's not that far from you, yet the winds there in Manhattan seem a bit calm.

HARLOW: She's not far at all. I believe Susan's in Montauk, Long Island, that would be about a three-hour drive away from here, out on the furthest tip of Long Island. It's not far from here, Drew, and she's getting all blown around.

We're expecting a lot of the worst storm to hit her there. It hasn't even really hit us here fully yet. This is calm. I mean, I've got to tell you, this feels like a regular rainy night to me right now. An hour ago when we were driving around, live reporting with you, you could see the wind blowing. So this is very intermittent this storm. This is what it's been since the beginning, blowing and stopping, blowing and stopping.

So, Susan is certainly getting the brunt of it out there on Long Island. You can expect that might come in to us, because again, just like Long Island, it's a big island, so is Manhattan. Especially this southern tip, we're surrounded by water on three sides. So the concern is that that could come here.

And, obviously, the concern is all of these tall buildings, if you were to look at an aerial view of Manhattan, you've got tall buildings all over. You've got a lot of them at the base of Manhattan because you have Wall Street here, you have all the residential buildings here.

And then you have Battery Park City, which was built up not that long ago, all right on the river, all very, very high residential buildings. So anyone that lives in these, I want to issue another warning, you've got to get to the tenth floor or below. If you didn't evacuate and you live down here, as Mayor Bloomberg said, the time to evacuate is over. You've got to get away from glass, away from windows and stay where you are and stay safe. Now is not the time to get out on the streets of New York.

GRIFFIN: All right. Poppy, thanks. We know you'll be with us all night because you have nowhere to go. You've been evacuated. Homeless now in New York, might as well be reporting with us. Thanks, Poppy.

ALLEN: And you talked about the point of no return as far as people who haven't gotten out. We are just getting word from Maryland, about 911 calls that authorities are no longer sending vehicles to respond to calls in Ocean City, Maryland, because of the high winds, that from the office of emergency management.

If they received a call about a catastrophic event, they would have to discuss whether to respond, and other instances. No one goes out. No one moves. That's what they're saying in Ocean City, Maryland. As they try to decide what to do, and what not to do, faced with people who are still perhaps in need of help, as this thing moves forward.

Up next we go to Ocean City, Maryland, speaking of Maryland, where Jeanne Meserve is standing by. We'll check on the latest in situation there. CNN's live coverage of Hurricane Irene continues.


GRIFFIN: We just did get an update from Ocean City, Maryland, where the Office of Emergency Management, Bob Road (ph), said they will not send out any emergency crews anymore. The wind is just too strong. The city received 11 inches of rain so far.

Jeanne Meserve is there. She is in Ocean City, Maryland.

Jeanne, what is the situation at this moment? Has the wind picked up that dramatically?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, actually, the wind has dropped off. You will recall last time I spoke to you I felt at risk of blowing off this balcony. It is very calm right here. Because we don't have power here I don't have access to the latest satellite imagery, but my presumption is because the eye is growing so close to us here at Ocean City, Maryland. If you look out here, you probably can't make out too much in the darkness. The emergency lighting out there does illuminate a little bit, though, and things are just not driving the way they were earlier.

There has been a little bit of damage. We can look over here at a building next to us, and you see where a little bit of the siding has ripped away but not really a tremendous amount of physical damage we've been able to see. But winds did get very high. Last time I spoke to the Office of Emergency Management, which is at the top of the hour, they said they were seeing sustained winds of 53 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 80, and when the winds went over 50, they stopped responding to those 911 calls.

This is exactly what city officials had told people would happen, when they were calling for evacuations, they said get out of here, because if conditions deteriorate, we will not be able to get to you. We will not be able to help you if you have any kind of emergency. The Office of Emergency Management tells me since they stopped making those responses, sending out vehicles to 911 calls, they've gotten about 13 calls from the public. But they said most of them had to do with things like alarms going off, probably activated by leakage.

They did tell me if there were any sort of catastrophic event, then the top city officials who are all sitting in the Office of Emergency Management, would put their heads together and make a group decision about whether or not to risk sending someone out. For the moment, though, at least where we are, and this is a tricky business, you never know exactly where the winds are shifting to, right here the winds are pretty calm, at least for the moment. We suspect that the eye passes on, we'll get some more, but from a different direction. Back to you.

GRIFFIN: All right. Jeanne, thanks a lot. We're trying to check just where you are in terms of the satellite view. And see what part of the storm you should be feeling and whether this is going to be waning, hopefully for you, and the rest of Ocean City, Maryland. But wow, 11 inches of rain, no matter what the wind is, that's a lot of rain.

ALLEN: Absolutely. North Carolina, of course, the first state to really feel Irene's punch. How much rain did they see?

GRIFFIN: Fourteen is, so far, the high mark. That's in a town called Bunion, which is on the Pamlico Sound.

ALLEN: Because we have been talking about the fact that even though we have not got reports of major damage, we do have 10 deaths. This is a slow-moving storm and it's deceptive for that reason.

Let's go back to Karen McGinnis. She is at the weather map for us to give us the latest on where it's going. And the fact that Drew's mentioning it's still a hurricane. KAREN MCGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And Natalie and Drew, when we -- every time we took a look at where Jeanne Meserve was, she was just being pounded and whipped around by the wind and the rain. Now it's quiet. Because right around Ocean City, here's a view, they are just about out of some of the heaviest bands that are moving onshore. There you can see it, right there along the coastal regions.

They have seen a storm surge of three feet. And they are also expecting a higher than normal astronomical tide. The wind is going to shift. I dare say the next time we see Jeanne Meserve, the wind is going to be coming in from the opposite direction, because as the system pulls further away, and it is moving a little more rapidly. It is moving towards the north-northeast at 17 now. She will be buffeted in a different direction and there will be equally heavy bands of precipitation.

But I want to show you a couple of interesting things. Forecast rainfall total, take a look at this as we go through time, over the next 24, 36, 72 hours. We see kind of a bull's-eye right here across northern sections of New York. So that tells me that the computer models are saying, hey, we're not going to go so much like this, but maybe we'll have a trajectory that's a little bit further to the west than that. So we're going to see the heaviest bands to the north, and on the western edge of Hurricane Irene.

By the time it gets to New England, right around Boston, we're looking at this, not so much as a hurricane, but more than likely by tomorrow afternoon a tropical storm intensity. But I say that, but you still need to take caution, because as we know, this is really producing staggering amounts of rainfall.

The one city, Bunion in North Carolina, 14 inches of rain reported there. We are seeing wind gusts right now at JFK, LaGuardia, in excess of 50 miles an hour. They're still almost 200 miles away from the center, or the eye of Hurricane Irene.

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, we had some storm spotters that said that they did see some transformers blow. They're seeing flashing everywhere. But also, they are reporting that streams are overflowing their banks already. This system is still many, many miles away, many, many hours away.

On Long Island, 40,000 people without power already. Once again, we've got almost 200 miles away from the core of this hurricane before we really start to see even more of an impact across this region.

All right. We were talking about Ocean City, Maryland. I believe we've got that -- if we can zoom in. There it is, right along the coast there. And they're saying a storm surge of about three to five feet.

And Jeanne Meserve was being batted around quite a bit throughout the day. We had one of our correspondents say for 30-plus hours, nonstop rainfall. This in coastal North Carolina and also, south eastern sections of Virginia, very heavy downpours, 6 to 12 inches in the forecast. And our last observation, the last report coming from the National Hurricane Center, still at a Category 1, still around that core, the eye of this storm, still supporting winds of 80 miles an hour, with the heaviest bands along the north and the western edge. At least looking at the satellite imagery, that's what we're seeing.

And still a tornado watch until 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Lewis, Delaware, had a report of a tornado. There was some damage. Don't know, Natalie and Drew, maybe you remember this better than I do, don't remember any reports of any fatalities. I'm not sure about injuries.

ALLEN: Don't think so. Don't think so, Karen. Thanks very much. You mentioned the power outages. Right now, the count for all of the impact of this is more than 1 million people without power. With many more states to go here.

GRIFFIN: Yeah. A couple of updates on New York; the Staten Island Ferry service has shut down. And also we just got word from the MTA and Department of Transportation in New York that the Broad Channel Bridge, Cross Bay Bridge, Marine Parkway Bridge and Rockaway Peninsula are all closed. They said they would close when they get wind speeds up. Karen just said wind speeds at LaGuardia 50 miles per hour. I guess that is what is happening.

ALLEN: They could see gusts, eventually, up to 100 miles per hour. You know, the Staten Island Ferry, the last holdout when everyone else shut down, was still going for quite some time. Now they've called it off as well.

GRIFFIN: Right. North Carolina, of course, was the first state to feel this punch of Irene. And now, folks are getting their first look at the damage and aftermath. We'll show that to you next.


ALLEN: We continue to track the impact of this storm, from south to north. North Carolina was the first, of course, to feel the brunt. A curfew has been put in place at Kill Devil Hills until further notice. David Mattingly has been there and monitoring all of what has been going on. We'll get back to him in a minute.

But first we are going to go to Susan Candiotti, she's in Long Beach for us. And she's been toughing it out.

David Mattingly actually went through what you're going through right now, several hours ago, Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Natalie. It's funny, when we last talked about an hour ago, we were in the middle of a pretty good squall. And then the band sort of subsided, broke up a little bit and really, we've been in a lull in the last hour or so. Now the wind is picking up a little bit. A little bit of rain. But nothing like it was an hour ago. So now you see there's just a little bit of street flooding here, barely anything to mention now. As you can see, walking through it. But this is fairly normal for a good rainstorm. I spoke with the fire chief here just a little while ago. And he tells me that Atlantic Beach, a small beachside community on this barrier island, that is just a couple of miles east of where we are right now-or west, rather of where we are right now, has lost power. And for example, the fire department, they're working on generator power right now. Now, Karen Maginnis said a little while ago, I think about 40,000 customers are without power on Long Island, as a whole. So we're still getting the numbers in.

Remember the storm has yet to hit us with a full force and theoretically make impact, make landfall here. Long Beach is a barrier island. And so we're expecting that storm surge to come up here, and also on the north side of this barrier island as well. Then there's an inland on the other side. As the bands come around, eventually when Irene gets closer, it is going to force the water not only this way, but on the other side as well.

Remember, we're only about here, about two to three feet above sea level, and there are some sections of Long Beach that are actually below sea level, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Susan Candiotti for us there at Long Beach. A few of the folks making light of things, walking by, we call those remote dance, behind her there.

Susan, thanks very much. I would imagine you don't have too much company out there.

GRIFFIN: Right. Susan, thanks again.

We'll show you glimpses of the damage in North Carolina right after this.


GRIFFIN: This storm is moving past North Carolina, where it came ashore earlier today. But that doesn't mean there's not trouble in its wake. A curfew has been put in place in Kill Devil Hills, until further notice. As you see the storm going up the East Coast. David Mattingly has a report from Kill Devil Hills.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Irene is the storm that just won't quit. Here in the Outer Banks, we've experienced over 30 nonstop hours of rain. Almost as many hours (AUDIO GAP) this hurricane is not done with the Outer Banks yet. Tonight the problem is flooding. And this isn't flooding from a storm surge off the ocean like we would typically see, this is a reverse storm surge. This is water that is in the sound. That body of water that's between the barrier islands and the mainland of North Carolina.

Communities along this sound are now experiencing flooding. Because as this hurricane began to move north, the wind shifted, pushed water up, and out of its banks into communities around on that sound. So right now, we are seeing roads that are blocked, impassable because of the water that has flooded them, a state highway, a federal highway. We're also seeing some communities that have been severely affected by the flooding. Some neighborhoods have been flooded as well. Authorities don't know exactly how many houses have been hit, but we do know that water has encroached into some houses, in some of those low-lying areas.

So here on the Outer Banks, they are not done with this hurricane yet, or even assessing (AUDIO GAP) It's still going on here. It is hoped that that water will start retreating soon (AUDIO GAP) pouring in in most cases. But that's when damage crews are going out to do an assessment (AUDIO GAP) what has been done and what needs to be done to get the island safe again for the residents to come back.

David Mattingly, CNN, on the Outer Banks.


GRIFFIN: As we approach 3:00 a.m., in the morning, here on the East Coast, those officials will be out there at first light. I imagine just a couple of hours from now to assess the damage.

ALLEN: Absolutely. Officials report that a majority of the residents in Virginia Beach were without power Saturday night. We get that from Amber Lyon.


AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in downtown Virginia Beach, where we're experiencing the lower bands of the hurricane. We got some strong wind gusts and some light rains, but that is nothing compared to how it was out here earlier today, when Irene was making landfall. There were times my producer and I were walking out here, and we could barely move the wind gusts were so strong.

We all sat out most of the hurricane up on our hotel balcony (AUDIO GAP) were looking down, seeing it creep closer to land. There's a big fear that the ocean was going to come up here and flood these roads. As you can see, that didn't happen. We're not seeing a lot of debris lying in the roads. That being said, 600,000 people across the state still do not have power as of now. And officials warn today that it could remain that way for up to a week. Amber Lyon, CNN, Virginia Beach.


GRIFFIN: The storm continues to move toward New York. We did get word in the last half hour the Staten Island Ferry service closed. Also some bridges out in the Rockaways have closed. And wind gusts up to 50 miles an hour at LaGuardia. We are going to talk about the governors in the Northeast racing to make folks are safe, evacuated from where they be. How they do it and how they heed those urgent warnings. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ALLEN: Continuing our coverage now, officials in every state along the Atlantic seaboard have been on high alert coming up with strategy plans and working to prepare residents for whatever Irene brings. They've been busy for quite some time. Issuing evacuation orders, planning for post-storm cleanup, and easing worries are all part of that job.

Here's a look at some of the governors in action.


GOV. BEV PERDUE, NORTH CAROLINA: There is widespread damage to property and infrastructure along the coast. We have ocean overwash, we have flooded roads, we have fallen trees throughout the whole east, and we continue to have damaging storm surge. The Noose (ph) and the Pamlico, and other coastal rivers, may experience flooding over the next few days.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK: The National Guard, we believe, are going to serve a vital role in this situation. The initial plan was for 1,000 National Guard to be called up. After briefings today, I will be doubling that number to 2,000 National Guard.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, MASSACHUSETTS: This is not a time to panic. But it is a time to be prepared. We are well prepared. We are coordinating very, very closely and well. And I want to thank all of the agencies that have made so much of their time, and energy and effort available, coordinating and collaborating to make sure that we are doing everything possible to protect the public's safety as we get through Hurricane Irene.


ALLEN: And just a few moments ago the governor of Delaware said it is still tough out here, pretty tough, and it is still early. And they are getting hammered. That was a short while ago.