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U.S. Preps For Hurricane Irene

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 24 (UPI) — Preparations in North Carolina for the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene included mandatory evacuations in the Outer Banks Wednesday, state officials said.

Irene was upgraded Wednesday to a Category 3 storm and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said it could become a Category 4 storm by Thursday. North Carolina emergency management officials directed mandatory evacuations early Wednesday on Ocracoke, the barrier island in the southern part of the Outer Banks, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported.

Ferry service was being provided free of charge for tourists and residents on the island, which is not accessible by roads or bridges. The National Park Service said federal tourism facilities on the Outer Banks would be closed by the end of the day, the newspaper said.

Irene, a large storm that will bring strong winds and heavy rain to the region, could make landfall Saturday afternoon along the Outer Banks.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday the Obama administration is “close communication and consultation with state and local officials up and down the Eastern Seaboard.”

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has “pre-deployed incident response teams to both Virginia and North Carolina. And they actually have some stores of commodities in Atlanta — bottled water, food rations and those kinds of things.”

Earnest said FEMA officials were developing a “very detailed logistical effort” as the storm moves toward the United States, and President Barack Obama has been briefed on the storm every day during his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

He said he did not believe there has been any discussion within the administration on Obama cutting short his vacation and returning to Washington ahead of schedule.

“But we’re obviously watching the weather reports pretty closely for a variety of reasons,” he said. “And if there’s an indication that that would factor into this as scheduling changes, then we’ll obviously take the appropriate measures.”

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

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