High winds and rain caused flooding, downed trees and knocked out power to more than a 300,000 people in North Carolina and Virginia as hurricane Isabel crashed into the US East Coast on Thursday morning.
Isabel, though decreasing in intensity in recent days, is still generating winds of about 100 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Centre in Coral Gables, Fla.
About 100,000 people along the North Carolina coast have evacuated inland, but about 50,000 people have decided to stay put, Governor Michael F Easley of North Carolina told CNN.
Federal and district offices in Washington have been closed and an estimated 350,000 workers have been given the day off. Transport systems in the capital are also shut.
Governors of North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia, which are expected to bear the brunt of the storm, have declared emergency.
Air travel in the region has been affected, with flights being cancelled and the Federal Aviation Administration closing its traffic control tower in Norfolk, Va.
Isabel is likely to move north across North Carolina and Virginia and then take a path through western Pennsylvania and western New York before dissipating in Canada by Saturday.