Category 3 Hurricane Irene Targets East Coast: Orcacoke Island Evacuated

Category 3 Hurricane Irene is still on target to menace the East Coast of the United States this weekend. Orcacoke Island, which is accessible only by boat, has already been issued evacuation orders in advance of a possible strike to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Tourists began the mandatory Orcacoke Island evacuation early this morning as Hurricane Irene strengthened to a Category 3 storm overnight. The 16-mile-long barrier island can only be reached by ferry and plays hosts to thousands of tourists during the summer months. A mandatory evacuation of the 800 year-round residents of Orcacoke Island will follow on Thursday.

Hurricane Irene is currently lashing the Bahamas with 125 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The hurricane is anticipated to possibly strengthen to a Category 4 and could even reach Category 5 strength in the next few days, according to reports from The Weather Channel.

The Hurricane Irene path right now targets the massive storm directly toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The current forecast track places Hurricane Irene just off the North Carolina/Virginia coast early on Sunday and over New England by Monday, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.

The storm could continue to be a Category 1 or 2 as it moves up the coast from the Carolinas, possibly following a devastating path up the I-95 corridor. However, the path and strength of Hurricane Irene are still “highly uncertain” according to the National Weather Service.

Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, said Irene could become a “big threat to New England” in a press conference call. “This storm could produce anywhere from 6 to 10 inches of rain, depending on how fast it will move through,” weather service meteorologist Alan Dunham said. “A 30-mile difference in track is going to make a huge difference in what people experience.”

Hurricane Irene: Category 4 Possible Hit to Carolinas

Hurricane Irene is currently storming toward the U.S. and this could be very bad news for residents of the eastern coastline. Hurricane Irene is now predicted to reach up to category 4 strength before it makes landfall — possibly somewhere in the Carolinas this weekend.

At 8 a.m., the National Hurricane Center reported Hurricane Irene located north of the Dominican Republic with sustained winds near 100 mph. Hurricane Irene is currently moving over very warm ocean waters and experiencing little wind shear. This means the hurricane could experience rapid intensification up to a category 4 before possibly impacting the eastern seaboard sometime this weekend.

The National Hurricane Center now believes the storm will skirt past the Florida coast, but warns the storm still remains unpredictable. Current projections put Hurricane Irene with a possible landfall location somewhere in the Carolinas this weekend.

National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said in a press statement that Hurricane Irene is “moving into an environment which is very ideal for strengthening. … We expect it to become a Category 4 hurricane as it passes east of central Florida.”

“We expect the storm to stay off the coast of Florida, which is good news for Florida. But it’s still looking like it’s going to impact the Carolinas and could make landfall there as a major hurricane.”

Officials may begin issuing hurricane watches for parts of the U.S. as early as today. “This is going to be impacting a lot of real estate from South Florida through the Carolinas,” Feltgen said.