An intensifying Hurricane Irene churned northwestward over the tropical waters of the Caribbean Tuesday and is projected to make landfall in the United States this weekend.
The five-day forecast map puts the storm on the Carolina coast by Saturday evening, although the National Hurricane Center said predictions this far out can be hundreds of miles off, meaning most of the southeast is potentially at risk.
"The Southeast coast of the U.S. will feel some impacts from this storm," meteorologist Wallace Hogsett said. "It's difficult to say whether that will be in terms of big waves or whether it's a more direct impact."
Emergency officials in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas stepped up operations in preparation for the first dangerous storm to threaten the United States in three years.
Irene became a Category 2 hurricane Monday evening, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. The storm could strengthen to a Category 3, which would make it a major hurricane, forecasters said.
"The storm was already stronger than we were forecasting," said John Cangialosi, a specialist with the Miami-based hurricane center.
He said Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, could even approach Category 4 status as it gathers steam over tropical waters.FULL STORY