Hurricane Irene hammers Bahamas (video) Where's she going now?
Hurricane Irene, with winds of 120 m.p.h., is now on a track to make landfall in North Caroline, then move toward New York and New Engalnd.
Powerful Hurricane Irene battered the Bahamas Wednesday on a track to the North Carolina coast that forecasters say could threaten the densely populated U.S. Northeast, including New York, starting Sunday.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Irene, a major Category 3 storm with winds of 120 miles per hour, pounded the southeast Bahamian islands with winds, rain and dangerous storm surge. Tourists fled the storm and major cruise lines canceled Bahamas stops.
The first hurricane of the storm-filled 2011 Atlantic season was expected to gain strength after it leaves the Bahamas Thursday and race across open waters to clip North Carolina's jutting Outer Banks region Saturday.
After that, forecasters see it hugging the U.S. eastern seaboard, swirling rains and winds across several hundred miles as it churns northward toward New England.
``The exact center of the storm may actually stay pretty close to the coastline during the day on Saturday and then become a big threat for New England and perhaps Long Island ... on Sunday,'' U.S. National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said.
``Be advised, it's going to be a very large circulation as it moves north of the Carolinas,'' he told a conference call.
Read said North Carolina could get tropical storm-force winds as early as Saturday morning.
DANGEROUSLY WIDE HURRICANE
At 11 p.m. EDT, Irene's center was about 150 miles east-southeast of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and about 790 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. If Irene makes a direct landfall in the continental United States, it will be the first hurricane to hit there since Ike pounded Texas in 2008. But forecasts showed it posing no threat to U.S. oil and gas installations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Irene's torrential rains were blamed for two deaths in the northeast Caribbean islands. A woman in Puerto Rico and a Haitian man in the Dominican Republic were swept away by floodwaters from overflowing rivers. U.S. states from the Carolinas northward were on alert and visitors were ordered to evacuate many of North Carolina's Outer Banks barrier islands on Thursday.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the state's Office of Emergency Management to prepare for possible impact from Irene. Insurers kept a nervous watch in case Irene threatened wealthy enclaves such as the Hamptons, an eastern Long Island playground for New York's rich. Forecasters warned that even if the center of the hurricane stays offshore as it tracks up the mid-Atlantic coast, its wide, swirling bands could lash cities including Washington and New York with winds and rain, knock out power, trigger coastal storm surges and cause flooding.