2 million ordered to leave as Irene takes aim

By MICHAEL BIESECKER and JENNIFER PELTZ

Associated Press

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. - Whipping up trouble before ever reaching land, Hurricane Irene zeroed in Friday for a catastrophic run up the Eastern Seaboard. More than 2 million people were told to move to safer places, and New York City ordered the nation's biggest subway system shut down for the first time because of a natural disaster.

As the storm's outermost bands of wind and rain began to lash the Outer Banks of North Carolina, authorities in points farther north begged people to get out of harm's way. The hurricane lost some strength but still packed 100 mph winds, and officials in the Northeast, not used to tropical weather, feared it could wreak devastation.

"Don't wait. Don't delay," said President Barack Obama, who decided to cut short his summer vacation by a day and return to Washington.