Powerful Hurricane Irene battered the Bahamas on Wednesday on a track to the North Carolina coast that forecasters say could threaten the densely populated U.S. Northeast, including New York, starting on Sunday.
Irene, a major Category 3 storm with winds of 120 miles per hour, was pounding southeast Bahamian islands with winds, rain and dangerous storm surge. Tourists fled the storm and major cruise lines canceled Bahamas stops for coming days.
The first hurricane of the storm-filled 2011 Atlantic season is expected to gather power after it leaves the Bahamas on Thursday and race across open warm waters to clip North Carolina’s jutting Outer Banks region on Saturday afternoon.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the state’s Office of Emergency Management to prepare for possible impact from Irene. Cuomo said coastal zones were most at risk, although inland areas could get hit by heavy rainfall and strong winds.