HURRICANE IRENE

Hurricane Irene: D.C. area hit Saturday

Residents fill bags of sand as they prepare for Hurricane Irene in Annapolis Saturday. (Photo: AP)
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(ABC7/AP) - Hurricane Irene opened its assault on the Eastern Seaboard on Saturday by lashing the North Carolina coast with wind topping 90 mph and pounding shoreline homes with waves. Farther north, authorities readied a massive shutdown of trains and airports, with 2 million people ordered out of the way.

Hurricane Irene is being blamed for two deaths in Southern Virginia.

Locally, winds will continue to increase from northeast and east up to 40-50 mph by evening. Rain increases in the D.C. area of at least 3-5 inches are likely by late Saturday.

Watch live local coverage of Hurricane Irene here.

The center of the storm passed over North Carolina's Outer Banks for its official landfall just after 7:30 a.m. EDT. The hurricane's vast reach traced the East Coast from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to just below Cape Cod.

In Virginia, WAVY reports that a child has died after a tree split in half and fell on a two-story apartment building in Newport News.

The call was reported at 12:07 p.m. for a fallen tree at the Brookridge Apartments on Fairfax Avenue in Newport News, according to Newport News Fire Department Chief Pincus.

The child was between the ages of 9 and 11 years old.

Irene weakened slightly, with sustained winds down to 85 mph from about 100 a day earlier, making it a Category 1, the least threatening on the scale. Parts of North Carolina recorded gusts as high as 94, however.

More than 237,000 customers in Virginia are without electricity as Hurricane Irene nears.

At about 3 p.m. Prince George's County declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Irene approaches. Also in Maryland, The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) will suspend services tonight. Light Rail will stop at 6 p.m. Local Bus and Metro Subway will stop at 9 p.m. Inter County Connector Bus service will stop at 9 p.m.

Hurricane-force winds arrived near Jacksonville, N.C., at first light, and wind-whipped rain lashed the resort town of Nags Head. Tall waves covered the beach, and the surf pushed as high as the backs of some of the houses and hotels fronting the strand.

"There's nothing you can do now but wait. You can hear the wind and it's scary," said Leon Reasor, who rode out the storm in the Outer Banks town of Buxton. "Things are banging against the house. I hope it doesn't get worse, but I know it will. I just hate hurricanes."

Airlines are scrapping more than 9,000 flights this weekend from North Carolina to Boston, grounding passengers as Irene sweeps up the East Coast. There were more than 3,600 cancellations on Saturday alone.

A steady rain fell on the boardwalk at Ocean City, Md., where a small amusement park was shut down and darkened - including a ride called the Hurricane. Businesses were boarded up, many painted with messages like "Irene don't be mean!"

Charlie Koetzle, 55, who has lived in Ocean City for a decade, came to the boardwalk in swim trunks and flip-flops to look at the sea. While his neighbors and most everyone else had evacuated, Koetzle said he told authorities he wasn't leaving. To ride out the storm, he had stocked up with soda, roast beef, peanut butter, tuna, nine packs of cigarettes and a detective novel.

Of the storm, he said: "I always wanted to see one."

At least two piers on the Outer Banks were wiped out, the roof of a car dealership was ripped away, and a hospital in Morehead City that was running on generators. In all, about 240,000 people were without power on the East Coast.

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