May 25, 2013
US says Irene could be 'big threat' to Northeast
Powerful Hurricane Irene battered the Bahamas on Wednesday on a track to the North Carolina coast that forecasters say could threaten the densely populated US Northeast, including New York, starting on Sunday.
Irene, a major Category 3 storm with winds of 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour), was pounding southeast Bahamian islands with winds, rain and dangerous storm surge. Tourists fled the storm and major cruise lines cancelled Bahamas stops for coming days.
The first hurricane of the storm-filled 2011 Atlantic season is expected to gather power after it leaves the Bahamas on Thursday and race across open warm waters to clip North Carolina's jutting Outer Banks region on Saturday afternoon.
After that, forecasters see it hugging the US eastern seaboard, swirling rains and winds across several hundred miles (km) as it churns northward toward New England. The forecast track indicates Florida and Georgia will be spared.
"The exact centre 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 towards 96 to 100 hours out on Sunday," US National Hurricane Centre 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 experience tropical storm force winds as early as Saturday morning.