Hurricane watches are in effect along the Atlantic seaboard, spanning from Virginia to New Jersey. A hurricane warning has been issued for the North Carolina coastline.
At 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, the center of Hurricane Irene was located 575 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The storm is moving north-northwest at 14 mph, and Irene is expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter airplanes observed peak winds of 115 mph, making Hurricane Irene a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from Irene’s center. Tropical storm force winds were measured up to 290 miles from the storm’s center. Hurricane Irene’s outermost rain bands are currently located over Miami, Florida.
Although the center of the weather system will pass east of Georgia, hazardous conditions including strong winds, flooding, and rip currents will impact the coastal regions of the state. Wind gusts of 40 mph are expected in Brunswick, Hinesville, and Savannah through Friday evening. The National Weather Service expects surf heights to build to 12 feet, causing coastal flooding. There is a high risk for rip currents, and beach-goers are strongly discouraged from swimming in the open waters until after the storm has passed. Hurricane Irene is forecasted to clear Georgia by Saturday night.
The powerful hurricane will move onshore in North Carolina on Saturday afternoon. Irene is forecasted to make a second landfall Sunday along the New Jersey shoreline, prompting evacuations within that state. For up-to-date warnings and advisories, visit the National Hurricane Center's website at www.nhc.noaa.gov.