Washington, D.C., is bracing as Hurricane Irene reaches the nation's capital.
Mayor Vincent Gray told reporters on a 9:15 p.m. conference call that an hour earlier, the center of the hurricane was 170 miles southeast of the city, heading north at 16 miles per hour with maximum winds of 80 mph. Unlike New York City, which shut down its transit services at noon today, Washington's Metro system is running on its regular schedule.
"We are expecting to be affected by winds of 35 to 45 miles to hour with gusts of about 70 miles per hour," Gray said. "The winds are beginning to peak." He said they'll continue to peak until 2:00 a.m.
"We could have a rainfall that would be anywhere in the range of four to eight inches," Gray said.
19 trees are down so far, and the tropical storm warning will continue until the morning. DC now has a flash flood watch.
Gray said that reports of a curfew in the city were false. "There never was consideration of a curfew, so I don't know how this got started," Gray said. "There will be no curfew. There's no necessity for a curfew."
Gray thanked people for staying off the streets. D.C. saw 9,155 power outages by 9:15 p.m., but that number is coming down as electric company Pepco works with those homes.
The city distributed sandbags and is operating homeless shelters and additional evacuation shelters. Gray said the city is paying special attention to lower-level areas near water such as Anacostia and Georgetown. Many of those who have been evacuated in D.C. faced leaky roofs that made their homes uninhabitable.
A Metro spokesperson said the city's transit system has no change of service planned for weather-related reasons.
"We think we are ready for virtually any eventuality, but one never knows in this situation because there are so many things that can occur spontaneously," Gray said.
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