Hurricane Irene Could Be Shifting West
Ocean City and other parts of southern Maryland have been issued a tornado watch.
Wind gusts topping 30 mph and heavier rains are hitting Ocean City as Hurricane Irene pounds the East Coast late Saturday morning.
The Category 1 storm is sustaining winds around 75 mph in North Carolina, according to the National Weather Service. It was about 50 miles west of Cape Hatteras just after 11 a.m., Capital Weather reported.
The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for St. Mary’s County while a tropical storm warning has been announced for Harford, Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles and Calvert counties, along with Washington, D.C., and jurisdictions in Virginia.
An evacuation notice has been given for Calvert County, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel in southeast Virginia is closed, Capital Weather reported.
A tornado watch is in effect for “lower southern Maryland and portions of the Chesapeake Bay and lower tidal Potomac,” including Ocean City, until 8 p.m.
“The storm's starting to move up the coast and beginning to impact Ocean City,” said Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. “There’s really been nothing significant over the last hour. … We’re still continuing to ramp up.”
Howard Bernstein, meteorologist for Washington D.C.'s WUSA9, said the storm could be shifting further west, bringing more inland rain.
ABC2News' meteorologist Justin Berk, who is working from the Hilton Hotel in Ocean City, still believes the Baltimore metro area will receive between 2–6 inches of rain.
"The waves are chopping up," Berk said. "We should all be in tropical storm conditions by this evening. ... It's just a matter of time."
The Weather Channel reports that a tree two feet in diameter already fell on a Richmond home. There was also a fatality in Rocky Mount, NC, from a falling tree.
In Norfolk, two people were rescued from a 30-foot sailboat and were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to HamptonRoads.com.
More than 350,000 people are without power in North Carolina, according to Breaking News' Hurricane Irene Twitter account. Nearly 120,000 are without power in Virginia, according to the state's Department of Emergency Management.