HURRICANE IRENE OVERNIGHT: Brief recap, with details below. Weather experts fully expect this to be the worst hurricane to hit the East Coast in decades, with 65 million people from NC to New England at risk. . .It temporaily has been downgraded from Category 3 to Cat 2 but still is expected to go Cat 4. . .Mandatory evacuation ordered for residents of Ocean City. . .Shortly after midnight, President Obama declared a state of emergency for North Carolina. . .Mandatory evacuations ordered for low-lying areas in Norfolk and Virginia Beach. . .D.C. area facing up to six inches of rain beginning Saturday night.
ABC7 TRAFFIC: An early morning crash on I-95 South has been cleared, and it's smooth going so far. Check @DaybreakSkip on Twitter for breaking updates. Here's the traffic flow map: http://tbd.ly/95jmWZ
CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Per the Post, "Irene was forecast to sweep over the Outer Banks of North Carolina overnight Friday and advance into the Washington area with a vanguard of showers beginning Saturday afternoon. If the hurricane stays on track, the worst of Irene will arrive in Virginia, Maryland and the District later Saturday and into Sunday morning." http://wapo.st/r0eBLJ
WORRIES IN NEW YORK: Mass-transit operations could cease in the city as storm approaches, per Newsday. ""Because of the severity of the wind and rain associated with a hurricane, there may be partial or full shutdown of our services to ensure the safety of our customers and employees," a transit system spokesman said in a prepared statement." http://bit.ly/opjMk1
AS FOR METRO: Per arlNOW, "The agency says it is calling in additional support personnel, who will be "on duty throughout the weekend to respond to any situations that may arise." Metro is also checking all drainage pumps and clearing out debris from drainage areas near Metro stations." http://bit.ly/plhKXQ
DR. KING CEREMONY POSTPONED: A planned weekend dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall has been postponed until September or October as approaching Hurricane Irene dashed hopes of paying tribute to the late civil rights activist on the 48th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech, organizers said Thursday." http://wj.la/onEoxg
HAMPTON ROADS BRACES ITSELF: Per today's Virginian-Pilot, "(Irene's) winds are hitting at tropical storm force 290 miles from its center. Storm surges of 5 to 10 feet are expected along the coast, accompanied by large, life-threatening waves. Rainfall of 6 to 10 inches is forecast - and up to 15 inches is possible in some areas." http://bit.ly/qevv5V
LIBYA UPDATE: Per the AP, "As pockets of fierce fighting continue,the head of the Libyan rebel government has again called for the urgent release of frozen Libyan assets saying it could face a "legitimacy crisis" if the people's needs are not met. Mahmoud Jibril, head of the National Transitional Council, on Friday also urged the African Union to recognize the rebel government." http://apne.ws/nfqEz8
NEW VIRGINIA ABORTION RULES: They'll be released today, per the Washington Times. "Pro-choice advocates say that they hope draft regulations from the Virginia Department of Health that impose hospitallike standards on the state's abortion clinics will not end up restricting access for women seeking abortions in the state." http://bit.ly/p0KxOH
SPORTS STROLL: Former Hokies star Tyrod Taylor leads Ravens past Redskins. . .Nats fall 8-1 against Diamondbacks. . .Miami football declares eight ineligible. . .Flanagan's death ruled suicide.
POLITICO BLINK: "Even for Sarah Palin, there are deadlines. The former Alaska governor seems to believe that most of the rules of politics don't apply to her that with her media appeal and her grass-roots following, she could waltz into the presidential campaign at the 11th hour and make a go of it. But if she does want to run for president, she'll have to get on the ballot." http://politi.co/pONZH0
WEEKEND FUN: Andrew Beaujon at TBD's ArtsBook has you covered. Pop: Tonight, Bill Mallison's Kids in America party at Dahlak features lots of New Wave favorites. Saturday you've got two great choices. Pg.99, an underrated and highly influential punk band from Fairfax whose members are now in gentle country folk bands, is reuniting to shred some eardrums at Black Cat. And it's also Chuck Brown's 75th birthday; Bootsy Collins will MC a blowout concert at 9:30 to honor D.C. go-go's most famous musician. Much more at TBD.com.
ABC7 WEEKEND WEATHER: Cloudy and mild today, followed by Irene's arrival. Along with gusty winds, several inches of rain may fall on already saturated grounds. Tropical storm force winds may reach the District with winds at or above 45 miles per hour. http://wj.la/72e8x6
LIVE ABC7 BLOG: Follow tropical storm and hurricane updates throughout the day and night by clicking here. http://wj.la/pbEEk9