- The Washington Times - Friday, August 26, 2011

As Hurricane Irene hurtles up the East Coast, President Obama on Friday urged residents in the storm’s path to take it seriously and obey evacuation orders if they are given.

Mr. Obama took a break from his final day of vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to warn Americans about what promises to be “a historic hurricane.”

“I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now,” said Mr. Obama, who was returning to Washington one day early out of caution for the storm. “Don’t wait, don’t delay. We all hope for the best but we have to be prepared for the worst.”

As of 11 a.m. Friday, Irene was considered a “high-end category 2” with winds near 105 miles per hour, according to the Weather Channel, which warned that residents along the Mid-Atlantic could experience extremely gusty winds, flooding rains and coastal flooding.

Mr. Obama was originally scheduled to return to the White House on Saturday but now plans to return Friday evening to avoid weather-related complications, a spokesman said. He has been receiving regular briefings on the storm throughout his vacation, speaking to governors and mayors along the Eastern seaboard by phone Friday.

President Obama speaks about Hurricane Irene during a news conference in Chilmark, Mass. on Martha's Vineyard on Aug. 26, 2011. (Associated Press)
President Obama speaks about Hurricane Irene during a news conference in Chilmark, ... more >

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been busy deploying response teams and supplies along the coast in anticipation of the storm. Officials are also coordinating with the American Red Cross, which Mr. Obama said has already prepared shelters in several areas.

The president encouraged people to visit the federal website ready.gov if they aren’t sure how to prepare for the storm.