Irene remains on a path that will take the hurricane along the mid-Atlantic coastline tonight and very close to New York City Sunday, posing impact and danger to millions of people.
Irene is moving north-northeastward over eastern North Carolina Saturday afternoon.
Irene is expected to track near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and Delmarva coast Saturday night, then could pass within 30 miles of New York City on Sunday before weakening to a tropical storm.
Such a path would lead to severe impacts that has already prompted officials to force large-scale evacuations and scheduled shutdowns of mass transit. All residents and visitors in the path of Irene should heed these orders and prepare homes and businesses for Irene's onslaught in the meantime.
"Numerous road, rail and runway closures are expected as Irene barrels north, underlying the urgency for residents to evacuate immediately," stated AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Bill Deger.
Strong Winds, Coastal Impacts Along and East of Irene's Eye
Irene will spread destructive winds (gusts between 60 to 90 mph) across the Delmarva coast, eastern New Jersey, New York City, western Long Island and southwestern New England.
The winds could be strong enough to blow out some windows in the skyscrapers of New York City. Unwary people below on the streets could be hit with shards of glass and other debris.
Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski warns, "You will not want to be out walking or driving during this storm."
"High winds hitting your vehicle while driving over a bridge or overpass can easily push your vehicle out of control," he added.
A track close to Atlantic City, N.J., and New York City would bring tree-toppling winds westward to Philadelphia.
The strongest and most-feared hurricane-force winds will be measured in the immediate vicinity of Irene's center and to the east of the center up to 100 miles.
Lengthy power outages and structural damage to buildings and roofs of homes can occur.
Flying debris and falling trees will heighten the danger for more structural damage and bodily harm.
Downed trees and power lines will litter roads and driveways, making them impassable until cleanup crews arrive.
Damaging tropical storm-force winds (winds between 40 and 70 mph) will extend nearly 150 miles westward and more than 250 miles eastward from Irene's center.
These winds will whip Richmond, Va., Baltimore, Md., Philadelphia, Pa., Albany, N.Y., and nearly all of New England, threatening to cause significant tree damage and power outages.
The winds will have no trouble downing trees where recent flooding and record rainfall has saturated the ground in areas such as Philadelphia and New York City.
Irene will also cause extremely rough and dangerous surf to pound the entire mid-Atlantic and New England coastline with severe beach erosion and significant coastal flooding.
Yachts and boats docked along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts should be moved to higher ground if possible.
Serious Flooding Rain From Irene's Center Westward
Places along and west of the center will be subject to Irene's heaviest rain.
The current path of Irene puts places from eastern North Carolina to eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York and western New England at risk to receive 4 to 8 inches of rainfall with local amounts over a foot.
That rain alone will trigger localized flooding issues, but AccuWeather.com is extremely concerned for widespread flood problems where recent heavy rain has already saturated the ground.
The drainage systems in Philadelphia and New York City and other metro areas are sure to get overwhelmed.
"Since a small jog to the west or east would lead to a huge difference in impacts, [AccuWeather.com meteorologists] suggest monitoring this situation closely," cautioned AccuWeather.com Hurricane and Tropical Weather Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski to all residents and visitors in the mid-Atlantic and New England.
Join us for the latest edition of AccuWeather LIVE.
In the wake of a storm that brought heavy snow to part of northern West Virginia and south-central Pennsylvania, colder air moving in will cause a freeze-up of wet and slushy areas.
A spring fever alert is being issued for the United Kingdom and western Europe this weekend with April-like warmth set to surge in.
A potent winter storm will continue to slam Italy and the Balkan Peninsula with heavy snow, flooding rain and damaging winds through Saturday.
Natural gas consumption has climbed in the eastern U.S. due to an ongoing deep freeze, and warmth surging across the West has allowed for a drop.
After a frigid workweek in Minneapolis, the weekend will usher in springlike temperatures across the region.
Central States (1991)
Early season heat wave. Some records: Location New Record Old Record San Antonio, TX 94 88/1916 Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX 96 93/1916 Wichita, KS 84T 84/1910 Sioux City, IA 74 73/1937
Burketown, Australia (1998)
The airport was closed due to the runways crowded by kangaroos and wallabies seeking refuge from flood waters. An area of Northern Australia half the size of Great Britain was underwater.
Goodland, KS (2007)
Last day of record 78 days with temperatures below 50 degrees.