Hurricane Irene hit the coast of North Carolina this morning at 7:30 ET, weaker than expected but hardly a weakling.  Irene had sustained winds of 85 MPH, and has already had one death attributed to it:

Somewhat weakened but still ferocious, Hurricane Irene slammed into the North Carolina coast Saturday morning, drenching the coastline and starting an ominous northward march almost certain to bring misery to millions.

The massive Category 1 hurricane made landfall near Cape Lookout around 7:30 a.m. with top sustained winds of 85 miles per hour, thrashing sand and water in every direction. …

At least one death was reported. A man in Onslow County was boarding up his windows with plywood when he suffered a heart attack Friday, said Ernie Seneca, spokesman for North Carolina Emergency Management.

Irene pummelled Outer Banks towns unfortunate enough to lie in its path. Wind and water damaged buildings, snapped trees and turned objects like park benches into whirling dervishes. Next up for Irene’s punch: southeastern Virginia.

Ten of thousands of people in North Carolina were without power as reports of damage started filtering in.

Allahpundit noted last night that Irene’s impact seemed to have been overstated, and at least so far that appears to be true.  That doesn’t make it not dangerous, to which anyone who has been in 85-MPH winds can attest.  As it runs up the coast, though, the storm should weaken further and dissipate.  By the time it gets into New Jersey, it might be downgraded to a tropical storm — with any luck.

Consider this an open thread, and we’ll update as events require.  For now, here’s a CNN report on the scene where a reporter is having trouble keeping his feet in the microbursts.

Update: In response to the notion that global warming caused this hurricane, Poor Richard’s News did a little investigating. It turns out that this is the first hurricane-strength storm to hit the continental US in almost three years, and that the rate of higher-strength hurricanes hasn’t changed much in … 150 years.