Hospitals, emergency call centers and other crucial facilities were holding up with more than 630,000 homes and businesses losing power Saturday as Hurricane Irene slammed into the East Coast, but officials said it could get much worse as Irene churns north.
Hundreds of thousands without power in Va. and N.C. as Irene heads north
Winds of up to 115 miles per hour whipped across the Eastern Seaboard, ripping power lines from poles and snapping trees in half. Gasoline supplies were falling as drivers top off their tanks on their way out of town.
The power losses were heavily concentrated in Virginia and North Carolina, where Irene charged ashore early Saturday morning. Progress Energy reported 273,000 customers without power, with much of the damage in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, N.C. "We expect those numbers to increase," Progress spokeswoman Julia Milstead said.
Dominion Resources reported outages for 340,000 of its customers in Virginia and North Carolina, while Duke Energy said 14,600 customers were in the dark. Pepco, which serves Maryland, Washington D.C., parts of New Jersey and Delaware reported more than 1,900 outages and Baltimore Gas & Electric said 2,300 of its customers were without power.
New York's biggest utility, Consolidated Edison, said it could cut power to the city's most vulnerable areas if the storm causes serious flooding. ConEd operations chief John Miksad said the utility doesn't expect to cut power before the storm hits, but flooding Sunday could bring a shutdown to areas including the southern tip of Manhattan. That would cut off power to major Wall Street institutions through parts of next week.
Irene is expected to be a brutal test for Middle Atlantic States, which haven't seen a hurricane since 1999. The storm is expected to stay just offshore — and thus retain much of its power — as it inches up the coast from North Carolina to New England.
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