Much of eastern United States is getting ready for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. More than 50 million people live in the projected path of the Category 2 storm, which is expected to make landfall along North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Irene could dump up to 15 inches of rain and cause tidal surges of five-to-10 feet in North Carolina before pushing north. Forecasters have also warned of the possibility that the storm could spawn tornadoes.

“This could be a 100-year event,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told The Los Angeles Times.

At least seven states have declared emergencies in advance of the storm, which currently has maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists have already been ordered to flee. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told nursing homes and hospitals in low-lying areas to evacuate. All mass transit in the city may also be suspended beginning on Saturday. In Washington DC, the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial has been indefinitely postponed.

Since widespread damage is possible from the coastal Carolinas all the way up to the Canadian Maritimes, federal emergency management officials are urging those in or near the path of the hurricane to prepare for the worst.

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