Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy As soon as I got out of the hospital yesterday (thanks for all the good wishes!), I headed to the local Target in a vain attempt to find "D" batteries (Glenn Beck says
August 27, 2011

As soon as I got out of the hospital yesterday (thanks for all the good wishes!), I headed to the local Target in a vain attempt to find "D" batteries (Glenn Beck says invest in gold, I say batteries). I did manage to load up on canned soup. It was crazy; the lines looked like Christmas Eve. The funny thing is, even as people were standing in line with carts loaded with bottled water, they were saying Irene would be "no big deal."

"Just a heavy rain," the woman behind me in line explained to her daughter. Yeah, that and the 80mph winds. It's been so long since we had a hurricane hit the East Coast, people are still complacent. Our old trees come down with a good thunderstorm; sustained wind can do real damage. Already, 200,000 people in N. Carolina have lost power.

And, as one weather geek noted in the comments on the Weatherunderground blog this morning, "If anyone up North has any doubts of the intensity of Irene, what they need to do is imagine the worst nor'easter they have experienced, multiply that by three and slow the storm down at half the forward speed."

I live three blocks from the Delaware River in a neighborhood that's only six feet above sea level. Here's hoping I stay high and dry -- and that all of you in the target area stay safe:

Hurricane Irene howled ashore in North Carolina with heavy winds, rain and surf on Saturday on a path threatening the densely populated U.S. East Coast with flooding and power outages.

The eye of the storm crossed the North Carolina coast near Cape Lookout around 7:30 a.m. ET, forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Irene was moving north-northeast along the coast and was expected to remain a hurricane as it hit the mid-Atlantic states on Saturday night and New England on Sunday.

With winds of 85 miles per hour, Irene had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, but forecasters warned that it remained a large and dangerous storm.

New York City ordered unprecedented evacuations and transit shutdowns as states from the Carolinas to Maine declared emergencies due to Irene, whose nearly 600 mile width guaranteed a stormy weekend for tens of millions of people.

"We've never done a mandatory evacuation before and we wouldn't be doing it now if we didn't think this storm had the potential to be very serious,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in warning some 300,000 people living in low-lying areas.

Roughly 2.5 million people have been ordered to evacuate up and down the East Coast.

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