Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make.
The hurricane is now in control of the middle section of New Jersey and has effectively cut the state through its center. Communication lines are down from Pennsylvania to the Atlantic Ocean. Railroad tracks are torn and service from New York to Philadelphia discontinued except for some rerouting of trains through Allentown and Phoenixville. Highways to the north, south, and west are clogged with frantic human traffic. Police and army reserves are unable to control the mad flight. By morning the fugitives will have swelled Philadelphia, Camden and Trenton, it is estimated, to twice their normal population. Martial law prevails throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania.
At this time, we take you to Washington for a special broadcast on the National Emergency from the Secretary of the Interior.
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Citizens of the nation: I shall not try to conceal the gravity of the situation that confronts the country, nor the concern of your government in protecting the lives and property of its people. However, I wish to impress upon you – private citizens and public officials, all of you – the urgent need of calm and resourceful action. Fortunately, this formidable hurricane is still confined to a comparatively small area. In the meantime, placing our faith in God, we must continue the performance of our duties each and every one of us, so that we may confront this destructive adversary with a nation united, courageous and consecrated to the preservation of human supremacy on this earth. I thank you.
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You have just heard the Secretary of the Interior speaking from Washington. Bulletins too numerous to read are piling up in the studio here. We are informed the central portion of New Jersey is blacked out from radio communication due to the effect of the storm upon power lines and electrical equipment.
I’m speaking from the roof of the Broadcasting Building, New York City. The bells you hear are ringing to warn the people to evacuate the city as the hurricane approaches.
Estimated in the last two hours three million people have moved out along the roads to the north – Hutchinson River Parkway still kept open for motor traffic. Avoid bridges to Long Island – hopelessly jammed. All communication with the Jersey shore closed ten minutes ago. This may be the last broadcast. We’ll stay here to the end.
Now the first ring of the hurricane reaches the shore. It swirls over the city. This is the end now. Smoke comes out, black smoke, drifting over the city. People in the streets see it now. They’re running towards the East River, thousands of them, dropping in like rats. Now the smoke’s spreading faster. It’s reached Times Square. People are trying to run away from it, but it’s no use. They’re – they’re falling like flies. Now the smoke’s crossing Sixth Avenue…Fifth Avenue…a hundred yards away…it’s – it’s fifty feet….
Adapted from transcripts of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater radio broadcast adaptation of The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells, originally broadcast on October 30, 1938. You can download an MP3 of the show at Mercury Theater on the Air to while away the hours as Hurricane Irene tears through the area.