MIAMI (CBS4) – The very powerful and very dangerous Hurricane Irene has started to slowly move away from battered Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
Hurricane force winds had spread across the northwestern Bahamas for most of Thursday.
At 11 p.m., the center of Irene was about 460 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph with higher gusts. The system was moving to the north-northwest near 14 mph.
Irene is forecast to gain strength Thursday as it moves over the northwestern Bahamas. The storm is expected to take a turn to the north early on Friday. Irene is expected to approach the coast of North Carolina on Saturday.
While the Category 3 hurricane will remain far off shore, South Florida will feel the effects of the storm with winds from 25 to 35 mph and gusts to around 50 mph in stronger squalls, according to CBS4 Meteorologist Craig Setzer.
In addition to the wind, torrential rain bands may move across parts of South Florida creating local flooding problems. Also, high surf and dangerous boating conditions are expected into Thursday night.
Anticipating squally weather, the National Park Service has closed the islands of Biscayne National Park.
Except for the possibility of some power outages and downed trees, no significant impact is anticipated in South Florida.
Up The East Coast
On Thursday the U.S. Navy ordered ordered the Second Fleet in Virginia to leave Norfolk Naval Station. Sixty four ships are affected by the order.
Tourists on a North Carolina barrier island began evacuating early Wednesday. The 16-mile-long barrier island is home to about 800 year-round residents and a tourist population that swells into the thousands when vacationers rent rooms and cottages.
In Maryland, Ocean City has activated its hurricane plan. Residents who live in mobile homes where told to secure them and prepare for possible evacuations.
New Yorkers are also paying attention to Irene's progress and beginning to prepare for possible impacts.
Flooding is a concern in both New York City and New Jersey.
"The police department is, for example, positioning 50 small boats at station house in low lying areas," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is not ordering evacuations yet. Hurricane expert Dr. Nicholas Coch warned that New York City is a very dangerous place to be if a hurricane hits.
"If a Category 2 hurricane hit New York City it would depend on the time and the tide and various other things, but it would be weeks or months before the city got back to normal," said Coch.
Residents of the City of Brotherly Love are also being told to closely following Irene. Philadelphia officials have told residents and visitors alike that they should take the potential threat posed by this storm seriously.
To the north, Boston officials are telling their residents to have their plans in place. While they may not get the heaviest of Irene's rains, city officials said a major concern is storm surge.
WARNINGS AND WATCHES
The following warnings have been issued:
HURRICANE WARNINGS for Grand Bahama Island, Abaco Islands, the coast of North Carolina from Little River inlet northward to the Virginia border including the Pamlico, Albemarle and Currituck sounds.
HURRICANE WATCH for the east coast of the United States from the Virginia/North Carolina border northward to Sandy Hook New Jersey including Delaware Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay south of Smith Point
TROPICAL STORM WATCH for the Chesapeake Bay from Smith Point Northward and the Tidal Potomac.
TROPICAL STORM WARNING for the coast of South Carolina from Edisto Beach northward to Little River inlet.
- You can get complete details on the storm, including up-to date maps and forecasts, at the CBSMiami Tropical Weather Center.
- You can also check on preps for tropical weather with checklists, shutter advice, and even preparation videos at CBSMiami Hurricane Preps
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