Irene knocks out power to nearly 200,000 homes

By CHRIS KAHN | August 27, 2011 | 9:30 AM EDT

Nearly 200,000 homes in North Carolina are without power as Hurricane Irene slams into the state.

Winds of up to 80 miles per hour whipped ashore Saturday morning, ripping power lines from poles and snapping trees in half.

Hardest hit were Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, N.C., where Progress Energy reports 190,000 customers without power. Most of those customers are residences.

Duke Energy also reports about 2,300 customers without power, mostly in Durham, N.C. SCE&G, which serves most of South Carolina, says it restored power to 2,500 customers last night.

Much more damage is expected as Irene travels up the Eastern Seaboard.