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Hurricane Irene strengthens, takes aim at Carolina coast

Aug 23, 2011

Forecasters say Hurricane Irene continues to gain strength in the Caribbean and is now the first serious hurricane predicted to impact the U.S. in three years.

The latest analysis from the U.S. National Hurricane Center says that it's likely the storm will be upgraded from a Category 2 storm to a Category 3 by the end of the day Tuesday as it enters warm waters. It could eventually become a Category 4 storm before it begins to weaken.

The latest track has the storm skimming the coast before impacting along the Carolina coast and continuing up to Chesapeake Bay by the weekend. However, experts said Florida homeowners insurance claims are still possible, as even though the storm is projected to miss the state, hurricane tracks can change rapidly.

"We want to make sure Floridians are paying attention," Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, told MSNBC. "We are at the height of the hurricane season right now. If it's not Hurricane Irene, it could be the follow-up storm that impacts us."

Irene would be the first hurricane to impact the U.S. since Ike made landfall in Texas in 2008.

For more about the 2011 hurricane season you can visit: NOAA's Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services

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