NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Hurricane Irene continued to menace the East Coast late Friday with low-lying and coastal areas throughout the New York City metropolitan area under mandatory evacuation orders.

The National Weather Service has extended its hurricane warning northward into southern New England with the storm still located roughly 200 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, N.C. Maximum sustained winds were around 100 mph with the storm moving northward at 14 mph.

Hurricane Irene downgraded to a Category 2 Hurricane on Friday.

The hurricane warning now extends from Sandy Hook, N.J. to Sagamore Beach, Mass., and many communities in the storm's path were urging residents to prepare for the worst now, rather than wait until Saturday or even Sunday when Hurricane Irene is expected to reach New York City.

As previously reported, New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority is

instituting a system shutdown as of noon on Saturday

, starting an "incremental suspension of its subway, bus, and Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Staten Island Railway service beginning approximately eight hours prior to sustained 39 mph winds reaching the area."

New Jersey Transit

and the

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

are taking similar steps.

The

list of communities in New Jersey

being evacuated includes Asbury Park, Highlands, Keansburg, Monmouth Beach and Sea Bright. The Garden State Parkway will also be close south of Exit 98 as of 8 pm ET on Friday.

Earlier in the day, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cautioned residents that power outages resulting from the storm could linger for days.

--

Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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