Hurricane Irene "continues to strengthen as it pounds the southeastern Bahamas," the National Hurricane Center reports, and "will likely become a major hurricane later today."
Irene is a "category two" hurricane at this moment. The Hurricane Center expects it will be upgraded to "category three," with winds of more than 111 mph, today.
The center's latest projection of where Irene will head has the storm making landfall along the North Carolina coast around 2 a.m. ET on Saturday and then turning slightly east as it rolls over the eastern portions of the mid-Atlantic and on up to New England.
The Weather Channel says the hurricane "has the potential to be a serious and multi-hazard threat [this weekend and into next week] for the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast along and east of the I-95 corridor. This includes New York City. This hurricane has the potential to produce flooding rains, high winds, downed trees (on houses, cars, power lines) and widespread power outages."
From Raleigh, N.C., the News Observer reports that "even if the center remains offshore, heavy surf and rip currents will likely begin to churn the North Carolina coast Friday, said Nick Petro, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service's Raleigh office. Coastal flooding will be possible over the weekend, particularly on the north side of the storm." Evacuations have begun on North Carolina's Ocracoke Island.
The Virginian-Pilot says that in the area around Hampton Roads, Va., "people stocked up on food, boarded windows and gassed up their cars Tuesday as Hurricane Irene threatened to become the most powerful storm to hit the East Coast in seven years."