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Hurricane Irene Strengthening, Va., N.J., N.Y. and N.C. Declare States of Emergency

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4:30 p.m. ET | New York governor Andrew Cuomo has also declared a state of emergency, and local officials are considering the impact of possible heavy rain and flooding on New York City’s mass transit system.

2:20 p.m. ET | The governors of Virginia, New Jersey and North Carolina have all declared states of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irene’s arrival. New Jersey governor Chris Christie said potential flooding could be “a hundred-year event” for residents.

The Navy is sending 27 vessels — including an aircraft carrier — further out to sea to avoid the hurricane’s path as it nears Norfolk, Va., where the Navy has a large base.

11:50 a.m. ET | FEMA said Thursday that the storm’s impact could be “well inland” in addition to pounding the East Coast.

Hurricane Irene is on track to become a Category 4 storm on Thursday as it moves from the Bahamas toward the East Coast, spurring evacuations in North and South Carolina. According to the National Weather Service, “Irene is a Category Three hurricane. Some strengthening is expected today and tonight.”

Irene is expected to hit the Carolinas, Virginia and parts of the Northeast starting early Saturday and through the weekend. As of Thursday morning, Irene was roughly 700 miles from North Carolina.

As Irene drenched the Bahamas on Thursday, winds were reported at up to 150 miles per hour. Homes were destroyed and up to 12 inches of rain flooded parts of the island chain.

With Irene projected to head directly northwest toward the Carolinas, southern Florida will likely be spared from the most severe weather, with heavy rain and winds expected. Officials were warning of potentially life-threatening rip currents off the coast.

A satellite image of Hurricane Irene approaching the Bahamas, August 24, 2011. Photo couresty NASA Earth Observatory.

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