NAGS HEAD, N.C. -- Hurricane Irene began lashing the East Coast with fierce winds and rain Friday, with the storm almost certain to heap punishment on a vast and densely populated stretch of shoreline from the Carolinas to Massachusetts this weekend.
Rain and tropical storm-force winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph) already were pelting the Carolinas as Irene trudged north, snapping power lines and flooding streets. Officials warned of dangerous rip currents as Irene roiled the surf. Thousands already were without power. In Charleston, S.C., several people had to be rescued after a tree fell on their car, trapping them.