Published: Aug 27, 2011 2:18 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 27, 2011 3:46 PM EDT

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina coast is being battered by sustained hurricane force winds from Irene which had begun wreaking havoc even before starting its assault on land.
 
More than 2 million people were told to move to safer places, and New York City ordered the nation's biggest subway system shut down for the first time because of a natural disaster.
 
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the enormous storm has weakened but winds topping 80 mph began lashing the shoreline near Jacksonville, N.C., around dawn. Gusts as high as 94 mph were recorded.
 
Forecasters warn Irene will remain a hurricane as it moves up the coast.
 
Some power is already out in North Carolina.
 
Hurricane warnings are up from North Carolina to New York and farther north to the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard off Massachusetts. Evacuation orders covered at least 2.3 million people.