Tropical Storm Irene was upgraded to a hurricane after she battered Puerto Rico packing 80 mph winds and heavy rains. Hurricane Irene, the first named storm of the season, has her eye on Florida and is expected to impact the Sunshine State by the weekend.
Hurricane watches and warnings have been issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Bahamas, Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands, as Hurricane Irene continues on a north-northwest track with her eye on the Florida coast.
Irene, the first named hurricane of the 2011 season and ninth named storm, battered the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico last night leaving almost a million homes without power. Category 3 wind gusts from Hurricane Irene were recorded as high 111 mph in the mountains of Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Irene gained strength over the island of Puerto Rico and is now listed as Category 1 storm on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. She is expected to increase in intensity over the warm waters of the Caribbean and skirt the outer edge of Hispaniola bringing with her up to 20 inches of rain and high winds.
The National Weather Service is cautioning residents of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to prepare for the first major hurricane to hit the United States coast this year.
Irene is currently "located 70 miles northeast of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, with top winds of 80 mph and was moving north-northwest at 13 mph." Her path could take her on a course that meteorologists say will impact the Florida coast with a 'major storm.'
Flash flood warnings are up across northern Hispaniola, the Southeast Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Depending on the path of the hurricane, 10 to 20 inches of rain is predicted for much of the Caribbean. Wind gusts from Irene are reported to extend 150 miles from her center.
Meteorologists with The Weather Channel say the Bahamas are at risk for some major damage.
National Weather Service
People living from Florida to the Carolinas need to be concerned about the threat of a major storm that could become a Category 3 by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service report.
Hurricane warnings could be issued for the US by Wednesday when the first rains from Irene will hit the state of Florida. NOAA and the Air Force planes will be taking another look inside the hurricane after 2pm today with new data expected at that time. This could affect computer models of Irene's path, said storm forecasters with the NHC.
Hurricane Irene joins the list of 'I' hurricanes that have historically been major storm systems. Hurricane Ike, Ida Iris, Isidore and Ivan left their marks on the United States, downing trees. leaving millions without power, causing billions in property damage and claiming a few hundred lives.
The National Hurricane Center is advising residents of the southeast U.S. against waiting to begin storm preparations and said that people should be be prepared for storm hazards and stay tuned for updates on the parth of Hurricane Irene.