Irene Death Toll Reaches Five; D.C., NYC Bracing ThemselvesS

This morning the "eye wall" of Hurricane Irene reached land just east of Cape Lookout in North Carolina—sweeping away dunes, flooding beaches, destroying a pier in kinda-nearby Atlantic Beach, and causing power outages. The old girl's not as strong as we thought she'd be, though! The latest, with updates below.

As she moves up the Eastern seaboard, Irene's weakening, at least wind-wise: at first she was going at 100 mph, but now she's down to 85 mph. However, this is relatively meaningless in terms of her damage-causing ability: If she just hangs around and dumps rain upon our heads, then we could see terrible flooding and/or wash away. "The emphasis for this storm is on its size and duration, not necessarily how strong the strongest winds are," says NHC hurricane specialist Mike Brennan. Also, she might just be taking a breather before picking up speed again.

In other Irene-related developments:

  • Poor little Bahamas. [Statesman]
  • President Obama has declared a state of emergency in New Jersey—adding the awful, meritlessly grandiose state to North Carolina, Virginia, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. [NY Post]
  • Speaking of New Jersey, governor Chris Christie told everybody to "Get the hell off the beach in Asbury Park ... "You're done. Do not waste any more time working on your tan." Then he invited everyone in Jersey to come over and use his personal, gubernatorial tanning bed. [San Francisco Chronicle]
  • Ron Paul doesn't think the Federal Emergency Management Agency should respond to Irene at all. "We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960," he told some people yesterday. "I live on the Gulf Coast; we deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district." When hurricanes hit Galveston, Ron Paul goes around repairing the damage himself. (FEMA teams have rudely ignored Paul's common-sense approach and deployed themselves all up and down the seaboard anyhow.) [MSNBC]
  • The popular grocery home delivery service Fresh Direct tweeted yesterday that they had to stop deliveries after 10 AM today "[d]ue to MTA stoppage & Cuomo/Bloomberg mandated evacuation of our offices," even though they had previously extended their delivery hours. They created an expectation that customers would be able to get their hurricane supplies delivered to their doorsteps. And now? Now the disposably-incomed people in New York City might have to leave their buildings and try to forage for food themselves, or else starve! Because there is NO FOOD left in all of New York City except Fruity Pebbles. Manhattan is going to come down with scurvy. Everybody take out their frustrations on Fresh Direct for abruptly shutting down New York.
  • Some of the city's shelters are tacky. [NY Post]
  • Irene's good for Alaska! Not only is the Sarah Palin state too far to experience any damage, but at least 100 lucky residents will get jobs out of this whole deal. Irene: Putting America back to work. Irene in '12. [Anchorage Daily News]
  • Doesn't everything feel just like 1944? Please turn up the Glenn Miller and say something rude about Hideki Tōjō. [NY Post]
  • And please do it quick, before we're all too wasted to appreciate it. [NY Post]
  • 11:08 AM, EST: It's begun raining where we are (exotic New Jersey). Is it raining where you are? Are you feeling flooded, either physically or emotionally (or both)?
  • 12:49 PM: The Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" has once again reached the Twitter Hot 100 singles chart after several decades of being just another song you only heard at hockey games.
  • Still no plan to evacuate Rikers Island, New York City's famous jail. "According to the New York City Department of Corrections' own website, more than three-quarters of Rikers Island's 400 acres are built on landfill—which is generally thought to be more vulnerable to natural disasters." [Solitary Watch]
  • 12:56 PM: Reports of NYC subway station closures, and evacuation orders are in effect in Jersey City (just the low-lying areas, though) and Hoboken (ground-level apartments). The trains between New Jersey and New York aren't running, which goes to show how hurricanes not only damage property—they fray social ties.
  • 1:18 PM: Damn, two people have died: A man in Nash County, North Carolina was struck by a tree branch and crushed to death, and a man in Onslow County had a heart attack. Our thoughts go out to their families. [News Observer]
  • Some of America's hardest-working lawyers are still working hard. [Above the Law]
  • Irene Death Toll Reaches Five; D.C., NYC Bracing ThemselvesS2:37 PM: CNN reveals a shocking truth about Manhattan (which is in New York City, which is a city in the U.S).
  • 2:49 PM: The death toll has climbed to four. A little boy in Newport News, Virginia was killed by a fallen tree branch, and another person died in North Carolina. New York City's subway system is now closed. Conservatives are sad that liberals keep blaming Irene on them. [CNN, MTA, Pundit Press]
  • 3:16 PM: Storm warnings issued for Canada. Irene's appetite for destruction is voracious! [LA Times]
  • 3:24 PM: Though food that isn't Fruity Pebbles remains scarce in some areas, there is no shortage of hurricane boyfriends. See, God always provides. But nobody can find the hurricane girlfriends, probably because they're hiding from all the guys with candles. [Village Voice, Single City Guy]
  • 4:16 PM: Massachusetts braces. Women in the Upper West Side of Manhattan are cooking up entire boxes of emergency pasta. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's deploying more National Guard troops, and they are also cooking pasta. [ABC News, La Grosera Twitter, Governor's Office]
  • 4:22 PM: DON'T TOUCH THAT WIRE. [NYC Council Twitter]
  • 4:23 PM: Maybe ConEd will shut off the power in Lower Manhattan, which includes Wall Street—thereby ending capitalism. Is Irene a plot hatched by the Chinese government to ruin America's economy? [WSJ]
  • 5:19 PM: A fifth person has died—yet another fallen tree to blame. [LA Times]
  • 6:43 PM: Tonight's Stevie Nicks concert at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (it's in Bethel, New York) has divided fans and ticketholders into those who believed the show should be cancelled, and those who did not. The no-cancel crowd won. Long live rock! If Irene's winds become too powerful over there, Nicks can just counter-swirl and twirl that storm away. [Bethel Woods Center Facebook page]
  • 6:50 PM: Parts of Brooklyn are looking very watery. [My Block NYC]
  • Six hundred elderly residents of some high-rises in Atlantic City have refused to evacuate. Chris Christie has asked them to leave, but they don't seem to care about what Chris Christie wants. Meanwhile, 80 residents of an Atlantic City senior citizens home have also refused to leave, because leaving would be more traumatic than staying. [LA Times, NY Post]
  • No power for a million Eastern Seaboard residents. Oh well, I still have power. [LA Times]
  • Ray Wert at Jalopnik also still has power, and he's live-blogging this crazy storm thing.
  • 7:28 PM: President Obama's working and worrying at FEMA's hurricane command center in Washington. Why hasn't he stopped Irene yet? [ABC News]
  • 7:35 PM: You've probably been wondering all day about the people in the Hamptons, and whether they're having any fun. They're not! Where parties and fun usually thrive, plywood and risk now dominate. Plywood is so cheap. [Reuters]

[Images of Irene hitting North Carolina today via AP]