Obama urges US East Coast residents: “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”

More than two million people on the US east coast have been urged to evacuate their homes as Hurricane Irene approaches, according to reports.

Seven US East Coast states have declared emergencies, including New York and North Carolina, in anticipation of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

US President Barack Obama, who cut short his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, has warned Irene could be “a historic hurricane” and urged people to take the storm seriously and be prepared for the worst.

Irene has been downgraded by the National Hurricane Center to a category one hurricane, packing winds of 90mph.
Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and North Carolina have ordered evacuations.

Meanwhile states of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, Conneticut, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.

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Amtrak and major U.S. airlines have cancelled routes and flights. American Airlines canceled 126 flights Thursday, according to a spokesperson. More flights are expected to be cancelled today.

Irene, which is the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, is expected to hit North Carolina on Saturday, where residents have been boarding up their houses.

In New York City, mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier warned residents of the low-lying and beach-front districts to find a place to stay on higher ground for the weekend.

Hurricane Wilma was the last major hurricane to strike the United States in 2005 as a Category 3 storm.