Hurricane Irene thrashed the Bahamas early Thursday, with widespread damage reported on at least two southern islands. The storm is threatening to pummel the Eastern Seaboard over the next several days as far north as Maine.
It is a powerful Category 3 hurricane with winds at 115 miles an hour. Forecasters said the winds will ramp up quickly over the next day and Irene was expected to become a Category 4 storm with winds at least 131 mph. At 5 a.m. EDT, Irene was located about 80 miles east-southeast of Nassau, and some 735 miles south of Cape Hatteras, N.C., according to Wall Street Journal.
The storm is expected to spare the Florida coast, passing off central and north Florida on Thursday night and Friday morning as it gathers speed, according to the National Hurricane Center forecast. Swells caused by the storm are expected to reach the southeastern coast of the United States on Thursday morning, creating dangerous surf conditions, the hurricane center said.
By early Saturday morning, the storm will have reached the North Carolina coast, though it remains unclear whether it will make landfall or stay offshore, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
Projections have the hurricane making landfall somewhere in the Northeast on Sunday - New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut are all possibilities - though its winds speeds will have slowed by then, says New York Times.