Hurricane Watches in US, as Irene Batters Bahamas

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 7:15 am (UTC-5)
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Authorities along the densely populated east coast of the United States have begun evacuating visitors at popular beach resort areas in preparation of the arrival of the powerful Hurricane Irene.

Forecasters issued a hurricane watch for parts of the North Carolina coast early Thursday, as the storm passed over the northwest Bahamas with winds as high as 185 kilometers per hour.

Officials say there have been reports of severely damaged homes and businesses in two southern islands of the Bahamas, but no injuries have been reported.

The storm is expected to strengthen on Thursday and turn northward off the southeast coast of the U.S. by early Friday.

At last report, forecasters said Irene, a Category Three storm on a five-point scale, was about 130 kilometers southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, moving northwest at 19 kilometers per hour.

The storm is forecast to move up the eastern coast of the U.S. later in the week.

Irene is the first hurricane to seriously threaten the United States in three years. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that emergency personnel are preparing all along the coast.

Authorities say Irene could cause flooding in the U.S. mid-Atlantic and New England regions, where soil is saturated from recent heavy rains. They say Irene's tropical storm-force winds extend 410 kilometers from the center.