East Coast Braces for Hurricane Irene Landfall
The rapidly intensifying Hurricane that’s already cut a destructive path through the Caribbean is the first hurricane to seriously threaten the U.S. in almost three years, a worry for some emergency management officials who hope people haven’t become complacent about the dangers, The Associated Press reported.
Predictions by the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said Irene was likely to become a major Category 3 hurricane today (Aug. 23). By Thursday as it roars toward the U.S. coast over warm open waters, it could become a Category 4, NHC hurricane specialist John Cangialosi said late Monday. Winds in such a storm can blow from 131 to 155 mph (210-249 kph).
The last hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. was Ike, which pounded Texas in 2008.
For now, the first Atlantic hurricane of the season had maximum sustained winds early today around 100 mph (160 kph) and was centered about 50 miles (85 kilometers) northeast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. The hurricane was moving west-northwest near 12 mph (19 kph) and could eventually land in Florida, Georgia or South Carolina.
After several extremely active years, Florida has not been struck by a hurricane since Wilma raked across the state’s south in October 2005. That storm was responsible for at least five deaths in the state and came two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.
Many of the center’s computer models had the storm veering northward away from Florida’s east coast toward Georgia and the Carolinas, but forecasters said much was still unclear.
“In terms of where it’s going to go, there is still a pretty high level of uncertainty,” said Wallace Hogsett, a National Hurricane Center meteorologist. “It’s a very difficult forecast in terms of when it’s going to turn northward.”