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The first large rain bands from Hurricane Irene approached the Carolina coast late Friday morning as residents there scurried from its path and communities up and down the densely populated East Coast watched and waited for the storm’s potentially devastating effects.

Authorities warned of widespread and prolonged power outages, flash flooding and storm surges that could flood low-lying communities and possibly inundate New York City’s subway system.

“All indications point to this being a historic hurricane,” President Barack Obama said in remarks from his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Irene was 330 miles to the southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, at 11 a.m. ET on Friday, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said.

While the first rain bands were approaching the coastal areas of South and North Carolina on Friday morning, it will be either late Friday night or early Saturday before hurricane-force winds hit the area, he said.

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