WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday warned citizens to expect extensive power outages from Hurricane Irene which is expected to hit North Carolina this afternoon and the heavily populated Northeast at the weekend.
National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said tropical storm winds, which will hit North Carolina in the afternoon, would then stretch on to New England over the weekend.
"We're taking this storm very seriously and I know our state and local partners are as well," Napolitano told reporters. "We do anticipate a significant amount of power outages with this particular storm."
She urged people in the path of the storm to listen to their local authorities and heed evacuation orders when issued.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said the impact could stretch far inland from the coast, including strong winds and flash flooding particularly in already rain-soaked parts of the East Coast.
Both Napolitano and Fugate said that there will be the necessary financial resources from the disaster relief fund to help respond to the damage from the hurricane.
(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Editing by Sandra Maler)