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News Wrap: East Coast Prepares for Hurricane Irene’s Extreme Conditions

August 25, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Emergency declarations went out today as Hurricane Irene headed for a weekend assault on the U.S. East Coast. The storm packed winds of 115 miles an hour as it blasted the Bahamas.

Irene’s wind and rain lashed and thrashed normally tranquil beaches in the Bahamas, leaving reports of extensive damage. Some of the smaller islands took a beating as the Category 3 storm blew along the entire length of the archipelago.

WOMAN: We had a two-day trip planned. I have kids at home.

(LAUGHTER)

KWAME HOLMAN: And ahead of the growing storm, the exodus from beaches in North and South Carolina grew, as new forecast tracks showed Irene wobbling back to the west.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue warned more than 200,000 people to head for higher ground, with four coastal counties ordering mandatory evacuations.

GOV. BEVERLY PERDUE, D-N.C.: We’re asking people all over eastern North Carolina, our coastal regions, to take this storm very seriously and to begin to implement their plans.

KWAME HOLMAN: As always, some people decided to stay put, despite the warnings.

MAN: We got chased off last year by the storm, and it amounted to nothing, so we’re not going to go anywhere this year.

KWAME HOLMAN: Up the coast, U.S. Navy ships at Norfolk, Va., headed out to sea to ride out the storm in calmer waters.

New York was one of several states to declare an emergency, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he may order evacuations.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) mayor of New York: If the worst scenario is going to happen this weekend, we will activate other elements of our storm — coastal storm plan, including the possibility of evacuating New Yorkers who live in low-lying areas that could be affected by such storm surges.

KWAME HOLMAN: But much of that was contingent on where the storm ultimately tracks. Some models had the center of Irene moving over the North Carolina mainland. Others had the eye of the storm staying well east, out over the Atlantic, as it whirls north.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also was considering a mandatory evacuation, but, for now, he said people should voluntarily leave the shore by midday tomorrow.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: What I will tell you is that the current tracking of the storm is not positive for our state. And so, if you’re being directed by emergency management personnel at the local or county level or at the state level to move and to go someplace else, do not try to ride it out. It is not the smart thing to do.

KWAME HOLMAN: And, in Massachusetts, boats were moved out of the water, as many residents recalled Hurricane Bob and the heavy damage it did 20 years ago.

There was damage done on Wall Street today after a three-day rally. Stocks started out higher, but gave up that ground, and then some. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 171 points to close at 11,149. The Nasdaq fell 48 points to close at 2,419.

Financier Warren Buffett’s conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, will invest $5 billion in Bank of America. Buffett endorsed the struggling bank in a statement today, calling it a strong, well-led company. Bank of America’s stock has lost more than half of its value in the last year, over its mortgage problems and concerns it lacks sufficient capital.

The prime minister of India called today for Parliament to discuss demands by an aging activist on a hunger strike — 74-year-old activist Anna Hazare has been fasting for nine days to highlight his crusade against corruption. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed lawmakers today on Hazare’s plan. He also urged the activist to halt his hunger strike.

MANMOHAN SINGH, Indian prime minister: He has made his point. It has been registered with us. I respect his idealism. I respect him as an individual. His life is much too precious, and, therefore, I would urge Shri Anna Hazare to end his fast.

KWAME HOLMAN: In response, Hazare greeted thousands of cheering supporters at his protest camp in New Delhi, surrounded by Indian flags. They want an ombudsman with sweeping powers to investigate, among other things.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.