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Hurricane Irene Swipes Carolinas, Parts of New York City Under Mandatory Evacuation Orders

3:25 p.m. ET | Hurricane Irene began sweeping past North and South Carolina Friday afternoon, lashing the coastline with heavy rain and wind. With winds of 39 miles per hour, there were reports of downed power lines and thousands of people are without power.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered evacuations in low-lying areas of the city, and its mass transit system will shut down at noon Saturday.

11:55 p.m. ET| President Obama said Friday that Hurricane Irene could be a “historic” and “extremely dangerous and costly” storm, and urged Americans living in its path to prepare for the storm and heed evacuation orders.

11:50 a.m. ET | Google releases map to help track the path of Hurricane Irene.

11:20 a.m. ET | You can find more updates on Hurricane Irene from meteorologists and reporters in the field on Twitter here.

10:50 a.m. ET | Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned of widespread power outages as Hurricane Irene hits the East Coast.

A highway sign warns visitors Friday to evacuate Dare County, N.C., as Hurricane Irene approaches. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Hurricane Irene was on track to sweep toward North and South Carolina Friday evening and into Saturday, bringing powerful winds, heavy rains and high waves along the coastline before moving up the eastern seaboard toward Virginia, Maryland and New York later this weekend. With winds estimated at 110 miles per hour, Irene is so far a Category 2 storm, but forecasters said it will strengthen before it reaches the Carolinas.

Track the path of Hurricane Irene:

See the storm surge probabilities on a map:

The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for the Washington, D.C., area for the next 36 hours, with the heaviest of the rainfall expected Saturday afternoon. A scheduled dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Sunday was postponed indefinitely.

States of emergency were declared in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Delaware to allow for funds to prepare for Irene’s arrival.

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