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Hurricane Irene could be "big threat" to Northeast

Aug 24, 2011, 11:50 a.m.
With storm clouds looming in the background, Charlotte residents Mark and Denise Flanders and daughter Verity enjoy their vacation on the east end of Ocean Isle Beach in Southeastern North Carolina, August 24, 2011. REUTERS/Randall Hill

"Someone's roof is in my front yard," Harvey Roberts, an assistant administrator on the sparsely populated southeast Bahamas island of Mayaguana told reporters on Wednesday, saying "tremendous winds" were lashing homes and buildings there.

Farther north on the scattered low-lying Bahamas, including Nassau, residents were frantically preparing.

"Everyone is either pulling up boats or putting up shutters. We are very well prepared," said Chuck Pinder, a 28-year-old fisherman in the community of Spanish Wells.

NHC chief Read predicted a "really tough time" for the Bahamas as Irene swept through over the next 24-36 hours.

Royal Caribbean and Carnival were among major international cruise lines that rearranged itineraries for more than a dozen ships in the area.

Energy firms planned to shut more than 28 million barrels of oil storage capacity in the Bahamas.

On the U.S. mainland, across the Carolinas coastline and in neighboring Virginia, residents stocked up with food, water and other supplies, including plywood to board up windows.

Sam's Club at Chesapeake Square, a members-only discount warehouse, reported a run on batteries, water and generators. "There are people stocking up like crazy -- we're out of generators," said Tracy Hatfield at the warehouse.

Irene drenched the northeastern Caribbean islands earlier in the week. The first death from the storm was reported on Tuesday in Puerto Rico, where a woman was swept away.

Heavy rains continued to pelt the U.S. Caribbean territory, causing flooding and mudslides. Nearly 300,000 residents were without electricity and 58,000 were without water.

(Additional reporting by Tom Brown, Jane Sutton and Manuel Rueda in Miami, Mark Ward in Chesapeake, VA, Joan Gralla in New York, Lisa Lambert in Washington; Ned Barnett in Raleigh, NC; Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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