NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Irene began lashing the East Coast with fierce winds and rain Friday, with the storm almost certain to heap punishment on a vast and densely populated stretch of shoreline from the Carolinas to Massachusetts this weekend.
Rain and tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph) already were pelting the Carolinas as Irene trudged north, snapping power lines and flooding streets.
Officials warned of dangerous rip currents as Irene roiled the surf. Thousands already were without power.
In Charleston, South Carolina, several people had to be rescued after a tree fell on their car, trapping them.
For hundreds of miles, people in the storm's path either fled inland or stocked up on supplies to ride it out. Irene had the potential to cause billions of dollars in damage and affect some 65 million people in cities including Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and beyond.
(Copyright 2011, The Associated Press)