Hurricane Irene Closes in on East Coast

Hurricane Irene Closes in on East Coast

It's a terrifying prospect—a monster hurricane taking aim at New York City. Now the nightmare is a reality, with Hurricane Irene barreling north.

WPIX Meteorologist Linda Church told INSIDE EDITION, "To try to get your mind around how large this storm is, it's incredible. It's 600 miles wide."

Only four major hurricanes have hit New York in almost 200 years. The biggest danger for the city is the storm surge—a wall of water that could be created as the hurricane smashes ashore. With the aid of an exclusive computer animation, experts can see what such a disaster could look like.

As the water rises, the hurricane winds and storm surges would flood the piers around lower Manhattan. New York's subway system would be crippled as tunnels fill with water. Wind gusts would rip the windows from the sides of skyscrapers. And power outages would plunge the city into darkness.

Hurricanes release the energy of a nuclear bomb every minute. The entire area around Wall Street in Lower Manhattan could be under six feet of water after Hurricane Irene hits, crippling the world's biggest financial market

Good Morning America's Sam Champion said Irene could score a direct hit on Manhattan.

"I have never seen these [forecast] models go over New York City like this. If you look at street level right by the Empire State Building you can look at the sky and some of these forecast models take what would be the center of Irene directly over the center of New York City," said Champion.

From space, astronauts on the International Space Station can see what a monster it is.

70 years ago a hurricane following a similar track to Irene came very close to hitting New York City. 600 people were killed and damage was reckoned in the billions of dollars.

Church said, "There is a huge difference between a hurricane hitting the South and a hurricane hitting a major metropolitan area where millions of people live."

There's already signs of tension as people flee Irene's path. Two women on the Jersey Shore were seen fighting over a place in line to buy gas.

It all happens this weekend as the East Coast, including the nation's largest city, braces for the worst and prays for the best.