Monster hurricanes that have hammered East Coast

There's been talk about Irene possibly being a historic hurricane -- joining the likes of Floyd, Gloria, and Donna. What will it take for Irene to be placed in that monstrous category?

Jay Barnes, a hurricane historian who's written several books, including "North Carolina's Hurricane History," joined "The Early Show" from Atlantic Beach, N.C. -- right in Irene's projected path, and took a look back at Mother Nature's path of destruction.

Special Section: Hurricane Irene

Pictures: Historical hurricanes that have hit the East Coast

How do those big storms to compare to Irene's likely swath in North Carolina, which is third in the nation for the number of hurricanes making landfall, behind Texas and Florida?

"Our most recent significant storm was Isabel in 2003, which made landfall not far from here as a Category 2 (of 5, with 5 being the most intense)," he said. "It remains to be seen what exactly happens with Irene, whether it's a 2 or 3 at landfall. But if it comes ashore as a 3, it will be the first storm since Fran in '96 that hit our state as a major hurricane."

While North Carolina has a significant hurricane history, further up the coast, in New York, New Jersey and New England, people have much less experience and are far less prepared.

What might happen there with Irene?

"Well, depending upon the track, you know, it makes all the difference in the world, whether it's really on land or out at sea. You look at the great Atlantic hurricane of 1944, for example -- that was a devastating storm throughout the Northeast; it stayed offshore, a big and powerful storm, similar to Irene," he said.

"More recently, Hurricane Gloria in '85, Hurricane Bob in '91, these were other storms that had a significant impact, category 2 status, as they made landfall in the Northeast," he adds. "It's been a while since New York City, though, has seen a direct hit, and it remains to be seen what happens with Irene. It could be tough in that part of the state."