Hurricane Irene hurtles toward North Carolina, may skirt Florida (VIDEO)
Hurricane Irene is expected to make landfall along the North Carolina coast Saturday. Top emergency management officials urge residents all along the East Coast to make preparations now.
As hurricane Irene leaves the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and begins a projected path that puts landfall on the North Carolina coast Saturday, top emergency management officials are urging residents all along the US East Coast to make preparations now.Skip to next paragraph
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Unlike Earl, a major hurricane in late August 2010 that flirted with much of the US East Coast but didn't make landfall until it reached Nova Scotia, Irene is projected to make landfall near Morehead City, N.C., Saturday.
Federal forecasters monitoring Irene caution that the accuracy of their track forecasts can be off by as much as 250 miles five days out. Even so, "a little deviation in the track" can have a significant impact on the storm's effect on the coast, Mr. Fugate cautions.
The storm already is large for a hurricane, with hurricane-force winds extending some 50 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds reaching out as far as 205 miles from the core.
"It's a large storm to begin with," says Bill Read, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center in Miami. "As these storms move northward into the mid-latitudes, they grow as a matter of natural course. So we're going to have a very large tropical cyclone move up the eastern seaboard over the next five to seven days."
A land-falling Irene would mark the first direct hit from a hurricane since 2008. That year, Ike struck the Texas coast at Galveston Island as a Category 2 storm and drove deep into the continent as a tropical-storm-force storm. Ike caused an estimated $29.5 billion in property damage, second only to hurricane Katrina's $108 billion in damage.