CHILMARK, Mass. — President Barack Obama urged the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Irene to heed instructions from state and local officials, especially if directed to evacuate. “Don’t wait, don’t delay,” he said Friday.
Speaking from his vacation rental on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., also in Irene’s path, the president said the federal government is “bringing all federal resources to bear” in response to what looks to be a historic storm.
“I cannot stress this highly enough, if you are in the projected path of this hurricane you have to take precautions now,” the president said.
Obama said he had been briefed on Irene’s status Friday morning by top federal officials. He said he also called governors of states and mayors of communities in the expected hurricane path. Warnings were in effect from North Carolina to New Jersey.
As he spoke, rains from Irene’s outer bands began hitting the Carolinas, along with 6- to 9-foot waves. On Martha’s Vineyard, though, Obama stood in the shade of a poplar tree outside a gray-shingled cottage. Otherwise it was bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.
Obama isn’t expected to change his schedule as a result of the storm. He already planned to leave the island retreat to return to the White House on Saturday, the day the storm is expected to pass through the Washington region.
He cited two government web sites, one in English and one in Spanish, that provide advice on how to prepare for emergencies — www.ready.gov and www.listo.gov.
Obama said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been deploying teams up and down the East Coast along Irene’s projected path. He said the agency has millions of liters of water, millions of meals and tens of thousands of cots and blankets positioned along the Eastern Seaboard.
The American Red Cross has been preparing shelters in North Carolina and other states, he said.
He cautioned that it would take time for first responders to begin rescue operations and get resources to people in need.
“So the more you can do to be prepared now, making a plan, make a supply kit , know your evacuation route, follow instructions of your local officials, the quicker we can focus our resources after the storm on those who need help the most,” he said.
“All indications point to this being a historic hurricane.”