Hurricane Irene Eyes U.S. East Coast

Hurricane Irene warned the Eastern United States of her devastating effect when she killed one person in Puerto Rico, flooded homes, and turned the lights out on the Caribbean, forcing President Obama to declare a state of emergency. She has proved to be destructive in her early stages, raising fears in the United States of a stronger version. While she has weakened in the recent hours, Irene is still expected to strengthen across warm waters.

Here are the details on this massive hurricane:

* The season’s first hurricane, Irene, is on a path straight for the East Coast of the United States, making her the first threat in several years. Originally thought to impact Florida, her projected path has shifted east and is looking to swirl parallel to Florida all the way up to North Carolina for impact and on up to New England as she slows down.

* Irene is making her way to the Bahamas, where she will spend Wednesday and part of Thursday before reaching the Gulf Stream.

* With winds clocked at 100 mph, Irene is moving west-northwest at 9 mph. As of Tuesday, satellite imagery suggested the southeast side of Irene contained a rain band while the northwest side carried the strong winds and thunderstorms.

* Irene has hovered between a Category 1 and Category 2 storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale, but has weakened to a Category 1 after wreaking havoc on the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, reports The Associated Press. Although Hurricane Irene has been downgraded to a 1, it is expected she will pick up steam in the warm waters around Florida, reaching a Category 2 by Wednesday evening and a 3 by Thursday evening.

* Forecasters predict Irene could turn into a Category 3 or 4 with winds close to 130 mph by this weekend, when she is expected to make landfall.

* Irene’s threat to Florida has been adjusted from high to low after her eastward movements. Although Florida looks to be spared from the impact, residents can still expect flooding, power outages, and wind.

* The threat level for the northeastern United States remains high and landfall is probable sometime between Friday and Saturday, when Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the Carolinas. The Weather Channel (TWC) is predicting Irene will hit the Outer Banks the hardest.

* Reuters reports evacuations could begin as early as Wednesday for Outer Banks. Tourists have already been ordered to leave some of the nearby coastal regions.

* Irene could then spend Saturday through Monday moving up the Eastern coast.

* Possible conditions spanning from the Carolinas all the way to New England include flooding, high winds, downed trees, water and massive power outages. The immediate coastal regions can expect to see high waves, beach erosion, and surge. These threats have initiated the pre-deployment of federal storm response teams in North Carolina.

* Other predictions include computer tracks of Hurricane Irene missing the United States altogether and heading farther northeast. Jeff Masters, hurricane expert and blog writer, mentioned the possibility of Irene bypassing the Outer Banks of North Carolina and pummeling the Mid-Atlantic and New England as a Category 1 or 2 Hurricane.

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