More than two million people on America’s east coast have been told to leave their homes to spare them from Hurricane Irene, which has already been battering North Carolina.
They include a quarter of a million New Yorkers along the city’s southern coastal rim. The mass evacuation is taking place ahead of the storm’s expected arrival there on Sunday.
Now reported to be a thousand kilometres wide, Irene has weakened slightly to a Category 1 hurricane but still threatens tens of millions of people with winds of around 150 kilometres an hour.
The scenes on the roads on Friday showed that many were heeding the authorities’ often stern warnings to get out of harm’s way.
While in North Carolina others prepared to ride out the storm, in New York the authorities are taking no chances.
Public transport is being shut down and thousands of flights cancelled. There have been warnings that several airports could close entirely.
President Obama has warned that Irene could be “extremely dangerous and costly” for the nation.