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Patrick Declares State Of Emergency Ahead Of Irene

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Gov. Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts and is mobilizing 2,500 members of the National Guard as Hurricane Irene approaches.

Patrick told a briefing at the state's emergency management headquarters in Framingham on Friday that Irene is expected to have a significant impact on Massachusetts, arriving Saturday night with the brunt of the storm expected on Sunday afternoon.

"The difference with this storm is that the track suggests the whole of the commonwealth will be affected, not just a region, but the whole of the commonwealth," Patrick said.

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"As we all know, Mother Nature is unpredictable, and the forecast may change for the better or the worse," Patrick added later.

Patrick says the western part of the state — where the deadly tornadoes touched down June 1 — will likely get drenching rain, and the eastern half will have heavy winds, according to the midday forecast.

As of late Friday afternoon, Irene was a Category 2 storm with winds of approximately 100 miles per hour. It could downgrade as it continues north.

"We've always thought that the Cape and Islands would see very strong winds, and I would not be surprised if some spots on the Cape gust to 100 miles an hour," said meteorologist Mark Rosenthal. "But it also really brings the potential for hurricane-force winds into the greater Boston area — 75 miles per hour or greater."

The National Weather Service posted a hurricane warning Friday for much of southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod and the Islands, while other parts of the state were under a tropical storm warning. A flood watch was also in effect for portions of the region and forecasters said at least some coastal flooding was likely.

"I would not at all be surprised if Boston gets into a hurricane warning [Saturday] morning," Rosenthal added.

Forecasters are warning of potentially damaging winds, the possibility of 5-10 inches of rain in some areas and a storm surge that could produce some coastal flooding.

Patrick urged Massachusetts residents to stay off the roads over the weekend as much as possible.

"Travel will be a significant challenge this weekend both because of the incoming weather and combined with the fact, as I say, it is one of the last summer weekends," he said.

The governor said state officials are coordinating with utilities to make sure that early response teams are ready in the event of widespread power outages.

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"We are watching the storm's track and we are working on setting up staging areas in those places that may see the most impact, and we are staging crews and equipment in those areas," said National Grid's Amy Zurich.

Logan International Airport plans to stay open, but JetBlue on Friday said it would close Boston operations Sunday, as it's up to individual carriers to decide when to fly.

All state-run parks, beaches, campgrounds and other recreation areas will close at noon Saturday.

On Cape Cod and the Islands, airports are stockpiling sandbags and getting ready for possible flooding.

"No storm drain system can handle that amount of water, so you could get pooling and flooding in some of the hangars and buildings, so we are very concerned about that," said Barnstable Airport Manager Bud Breault.

Patrick also said state reservoirs are being drawn down to help absorb rainfall and minimize flooding.

Also Friday, The White House said President Obama will cut his Martha's Vineyard vacation short because of Irene. He'll return to Washington on Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon.

In a statement Friday, Obama said that all indications suggest that Irene will be a "historic" storm.

With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

Irene Coverage:

This program aired on August 26, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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