Hurricane Irene: States of Emergency Declared Across East Coast

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REUTERS/NOAA/National Environment Satellite

Irene captured by the GOES-East satellite on August 25, 2011.

From New York to the Carolinas, it’s all getting serious.

The expected arrival of the nearly 600-mile-wide Hurricane Irene this weekend means that states of emergency have been declared across the East Coast. Evacuations have been ordered, with authorities warning of severe flooding. NewsFeed has put together a guide from the governors as to what to do.

(PHOTOS: Irene Strengthens as It Heads for U.S. East Coast)

New York: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has said, by declaring a state of emergency, that the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Albany should be operational twenty-four hours a day. State agencies and local governments are planning cooperative response efforts. “We are communicating with our federal and local partners to track the storm and to plan a coordinated response, and we will deploy resources as needed to the areas expected to be hit the hardest,” he said in a statement. “I urge New Yorkers to personally prepare for hurricane conditions and to cooperate with emergency officials if needed. By working together, we will all be able to face this storm in a calm and organized manner.” Transit officials said that buses, subways, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road could be halted if Irene continues to loom large.

New Jersey: By Gov. Chris Christie also declaring a state of emergency, it means that the National Guard can immediately deploy resources throughout the state. Irene is expected to arrive at around 6:00 p.m. on Saturday with Christie saying “do not go” to anyone planning to visit the Jersey shore this weekend.  He wanted anyone there to either leave by Friday, asking residents of the barrier islands to voluntarily evacuate. And people in other flood-prone areas (especially South Jersey where some dams recently failed), face a further chance of additional flooding.

Maryland: It seems to be somewhat of a learning curve for those in Maryland, as hurricanes are an unusual occurrence for the state. Gov. Martin O’Malley issued the emergency to “take protective actions to protect the lives and property of impacted citizens.” The Ocean City vacation spot told folk to turn around and avoid the boardwalk, noting the possibility of 9.5 inches of rain and high winds. Irene’s path could bring it through Richmond, Washington, D.C. (and Sunday’s scheduled dedication of the newly opened memorial for Martin Luther King Jr – which President Barack Obama had been expected to attend – has been postponed until at least September) and Baltimore, which would be doubly damaging for the area, just days after the earthquake hit. If so, there may be an estimated $100 billion in insured losses (according to a five-year-old study by Munich Re.) But this doesn’t take into account any loss of productivity or loss of life.

Virginia: Gov. Bob McDonnell declared the emergency with winds potentially hitting hurricane strength in the Hampton Roads area and tropical storm-force winds even extending further inland. Eastern Virginia residents who live in low-lying areas have been told to ready themselves to evacuate ahead of the storm. The sensible advice is to listen to local TV and radio stations, who would issue an evacuation order for specific areas, as well as details on evacuation routes and the locations of evacuation shelters.

“Over the last 24 hours, a number of weather models have shifted the forecasted track of Irene slightly to the west, increasing the potential for inclement weather and potentially dangerous conditions in portions of Virginia,” stated  McDonnell. “At this time, I encourage all Virginians to gather items they may need this weekend in case of power outages and disruptions in public services and to make sure their family members and friends are also prepared for this storm.”

North Carolina: Gov. Bev Perdue has said that 180 guard members would be in the east by midday Friday to help prepare for the storm’s arrival and is set for a quick response to damage. Another 48 Highway Patrol troopers also would be deployed to assist with evacuations and storm response. The National Weather Services has issued a hurricane warning for the entire North Carolina coast. Irene “now looks like she may have a bigger impact on North Carolina that what we expected,” Perdue said, later adding that, “everybody should take this very seriously.” Perdue asked President Barack Obama to declare a federal disaster declaration before the storm reached landfall to help speed up assistance from the federal government. Obama approved the request Thursday evening.

South Carolina: A tropical storm warning has been issued for the most of the South Carolina coast. More encouragingly, the hurricane warning for South Carolina has been lifted but the tropical storm warning remains in effect.

(MORE: Is Irene the Start of Hurricane Season?)

Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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