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Emergency Managers Begin To Monitor Irene's Progress

MIAMI (CBS4) – As Hurricane Irene looms about a thousand miles off our coast, many in South Florida are stocking up on batteries, flashlights and extra storm supplies.

The National Hurricane Center's current forecast has Irene impacting southern Florida as a hurricane by Thursday. The storm, which marks the first hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season, could also clip Georgia and the Carolinas.

Broward County emergency officials have already begun preparations; 15 emergency management staffers were asked to report to work on Monday to monitor the storm.

Emergency management director Chuck Lanza said staff will soon begin calling roughly 1,000 special needs residents, including elderly and disabled residents, to assess what kind of help they'll need if Irene hits South Florida. Those residents could be transported to shelters Wednesday or Thursday depending on the storm's progress.

"Hurricane preparations are pretty much the order of the day," said Mike Geier, Palm Beach County radiological emergency preparedness planner. "We go through a pretty extensive checklist. It's probably three pages long."

Monday morning Irene was moving west-northwest away from Puerto Rico at roughly 14 mph with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph.  Forecasters said the main impediment to the storm's progress over the next couple of days will come if it hits land. If Irene passes over Hispaniola's mountains or over parts of eastern Cuba, the storm could weaken more than currently expected.

"However, if the system ends up moving to the north of both of those land masses it could strengthen more than expected," forecaster Richard Pasch wrote.

More than a million homes are without power in Puerto Rico which has also reported wide spread damage. No injuries, however, have been reported.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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