By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Heeling: One of two people rescued from a sailboat, right, uses a line to make their way onto the beach on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk today
Hurricane Irene has claimed at least five lives, including one child, as it lashed parts of the U.S. East coast with ferocious 115mph wind gusts this morning.
Irene's strength waned last night as it was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, but its brutal power proved fatal when the slow-moving storm made landfall on the outer banks of North Carolina.
Sprawling: Hurricane Irene opened its assault on the Eastern Seaboard on Saturday by lashing the North Carolina coast with wind as strong as 115 mph and pounding shoreline homes with waves
Damaging winds and torrential rain have led to an unprecedented lockdown as the storm roars its way northwards toward New York, where it is expected to hit on Sunday morning, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
Three hundred seventy thousand New Yorkers were ordered to evacuate their homes and businesses as experts warned Irene could wreak havoc when it hits the Big Apple because of storm surges pushing seawater ashore and heavy rainfall causing flooding.
Tragedy: A young boy was killed after a large tree fell onto his apartment in Newport News, Virginia. He was pronounced dead at the scene
The nation's largest subway system and arriving flights at the five main New York City-area airports were halted at noon on Saturday as Hurricane Irene spun its way up the Eastern Seaboard, threatening 20 per cent of the U.S. population.
Four deaths have been reported across North Carolina and Virginia.
The first was a man in Onslow County, North Carolina, who suffered a heart attack and died while boarding up his windows, according to the Charlotte Observer. A man in Nash County was killed outside his house after he was struck by a tree limb picked up by the strong winds.
Maze of destruction: A vehicle avoids a downed utility pole on Woodlawn St as Hurricane Irene hits Greenville, North Carolina today
In Pitt County, an individual was killed in a vehicle crash. Details on that death were not immediately available.
Sheriff Dick Jenkins told WRAL.com that the man, who was not identified, went to feed his animals outside his Nashville, North Carolina home, when a tree or branch fell on him.
And in Newport News, Virginia, an 11-year-old boy who had gone missing from his family's apartment was found dead after a tree fell on him, WAVY reported.
Danger: Homes that sit on the sand of North Carolina's beaches are in danger of collapse as strong waves from Hurricane Irene strike the coast
Under water: Waves lap at the foundation of a house along Calico Creek today in Morehead City, North Carolina
A couple living attempting to outrun Hurricane Irene were also rescued today in the Chesapeake Bay as their sailboat was battered by 6- to 8-ft seas and winds gusting to 45mph, rescue officials said.
Unable to launch rescue craft, two rescue crew members swam to the sailboat, pulled the sailors off and hauled them back to shore in the Willoughby section of Norfolk near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.
The couple, who lived aboard the ship, did not want to be identified. They were treated by medical personnel and taken to a shelter. Their cat also survived the ordeal.
Rising: High water floods the waterfront of the downtown area as Hurricane Irene comes ashore near Morehead City, North Carolina
Utility services in North Carolina and Virginia said 630,000 customers were without power as Irene battered the region.
North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said at least 10 major roads were closed and airports have been shuttered.
Warning residents to remain indoors she said: 'Stay in your homes and wait for it all to end.'
President Obama visited the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency today to check on preparations and response activity.
Running from the storm: A pedestrian crosses an open area as Hurricane Irene passes through Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina this morning
Destruction: Wayne Lanier, proprietor of the Atlantic Food Mart, carries ice into his store next to a gas canopy that was knocked over from the winds by Hurricane Irene in Surf City, North Carolina today
Briefing: President Barack Obama (2nd R) listens as FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate (R) updates representatives from various U.S. safety agencies, including U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (3rdR) on Hurricane Irene
Mr Obama arrived at FEMA's National Response Coordination Center, where federal agencies convene during disasters. He toured the facility and participated in a video teleconference with state and federal officials. He also listened as reports came in from as far as Vermont, where rivers are expected to flood and Canadian utility crews have been called in to help.
'You guys are doing a great job,' the president told more employees working to coordinate federal, state and local emergency responders. 'This is obviously going to be touch and go.... It's going to be a long 72 hours,' Mr Obama said.
The President had been due to leave Martha's Vineyard today after a nine-day vacation, but he cut it short and returned to the White House last night to get ahead of the storm. He brought first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, with him.
Urgency: Charlene Tyler picks up sandbags in a cart during a sandbag distribution to Washington, DC residents
Helping hand: Workers load sandbags into vehicles during a sandbag distribution to Washington, DC residents in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Irene near R.F.K. Stadium today
'Leave now': Residents of the Wavecrest Home for Adults wait to board buses to be evacuated from the Far Rockaway section of New York City today in anticipation of Hurricane Irene
Shut down: A New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee tells people that there will be no more subway out of Coney Island, an area under mandatory evacuation ahead of Hurricane Irene, in New York today
Taking cover: Charles Foster of Long Neck, Delaware, relaxes with a book as he joins over 275 other people who checked into the Red Cross center at Indian River High School to ride out Hurricane Irene in Dagsboro
Landfall: Shortly after the Category 1 storm made landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina, forecasters said Irene's winds had dropped to 85mph
Obama drama: President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle and their daughters Sasha and Malia (left) arrive home at the White House last night after cutting their holiday short.
Gone baby gone: Paramedics and EMTs load an incubator holding a baby into an ambulance on Friday after NYU Langone Medical Center was ordered to evacuate about 400 patients
Emergency: A fleet of private ambulances prepare to move patients from Coney Island Hospital as low-lying evacuations take place.
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Home » News Update » At least five dead as Irene smashes into East Coast and 370,000 New Yorkers are ordered to flee as terrified city fears the worst
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