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.
Some of the warmest weather of the year will continue across Alaska over the next few days, challenging more records.
Join us on Thursday for AccuWeather LIVE, we will discuss the debate of climate change and hurricane frequency and the top five things you need to know about summer weather.
Warmth is forecast to build over much of the eastern half of the nation by July, with Alaska of all places helping out.
A brief synopsis of the top five worst weather events of last summer.
The storms could affect cities from St. Louis to Evansville, Ind., Louisville, Ky., Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio to Huntington, W.Va.
A tornado touched down at Denver International Airport as a severe weather system moved through the area.
Custer Creek, MT (1938)
Cloudburst; 48 killed in a train wreck.
Atlanta, GA (1991)
3.47" of rain in 1 hour.
3-4" rains common across the state.