Hurricane Irene bearing down, Obama to end vacation early

President Barack Obama speaks about Hurricane Irene in Chilmark, Mass. on Martha's Vineyard on Aug. 26, 2011.During his statement, the president urged Americans to "take precautions now" to prepare for a hurricane that he said is projected to be "historic." "I cannot stress this highly enough," Mr. Obama said. "If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don't wait. Don't delay. We all hope for the best, but we have to be prepared for the worst."Complete coverage: Hurricane IreneNational Hurricane CenterReady.gov AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

President Barack Obama speaks about Hurricane Irene in Chilmark, Mass. on Martha's Vineyard on Aug. 26, 2011.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Updated 2:24 p.m. Eastern Time

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, President Obama will end his Martha's Vineyard vacation early so he can get back to Washington where federal officials are making emergency preparations.

Millions brace as Irene churns toward U.S.

Mr. Obama will leave the coastal Massachusetts island this evening, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"The president simply reached the conclusion that it would be more prudent for him to be in Washington, D.C., and to be at the White House at the end of the day today," Earnest said.

Mr. Obama made his decision known to his team early Friday afternoon, shortly after he urged Americans to immediately take precautions to deal with the storm.

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Martha's Vineyard is in the track of the storm, which is supposed to reach Massachusetts Sunday. Earnest said Mr. Obama's decision to leave the island "was not made in response to any concerns about his own personal safety."

Mr. Obama's wife and daughters will travel back to Washington with the president, Earnest said. Mr. Obama was criticized for arriving at the vacation spot separately from his family, who took a smaller government jet about four hours ahead of the president.

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With reporting by CBS News White House producer Chloe Arensberg in Martha's Vineyard.

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