After several years of hurricane inactivity(the last was Hurricane Ike in 2008) Hurricane Irene is being closely watched as it approaches the coastline of the USA. As of today (Wednesday) it has temporarily contracted into a Category 1 hurricane, but it is expected to strengthen.
Hurricane Irene has already cut a destructive path through the Caribbean.
Forecasters say the hurricane could grow to a monstrous Category 4 storm with winds of more than 70 knots before it's predicted to come ashore this weekend on the U.S. mainland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami expected Irene to reach Category 3 strength on Tuesday, said spokesman Dennis Feltgen.
An updated forecast released Tuesday morning also showed that Irene could move into the Chesapeake Bay by Sunday at hurricane strength. That latest model showed Irene making landfall along the North Carolina coast. However, because the storm is still days away from the U.S., some models also show Irene remaining offshore along the East Coast.
Still, authorities on North Carolina's Ocracoke Island were taking no chances. On Tuesday, officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for visitors to leave starting at 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Forecasters say that Irene, currently churning near the Bahamas, will likely skirt the east coast of Florida on Friday and is currently predicted to make landfall on the North Carolina coast as a Category 3 or 4 storm this weekend.
BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States) is urging boaters to take steps now to prepare and has some online help with the web's most complete Hurricane Resource Center designed specifically for boaters at http://www.boatus.com/Hurricanes/!BoatUS.
The website offers easily downloadable storm planning materials including a hurricane preparation worksheet, an in-depth Guide to Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes, and checklists for what to do before and after a hurricane strikes.
Sample hurricane plans for boat and yacht clubs, as well as up-to-the-minute storm tracking tools with live satellite images are also offered.
While the safest location for a boat during a storm is on land, boaters may also want to ask their insurer if their policy offers help in paying for the cost of a storm-related haul-out. Boat owners seeking the services of a professional delivery captain to move a vessel to a safe location can go to the BoatUS Captains Locator at http://www.BoatUS.com/procaptains.
To give boaters an idea of the kinds of damage expected with a significant storm, and how some failed to prepare, the Association also offers a series of 13 short videos shot in 2008 on location in the Houston, Texas, region by the BoatUS Marine Insurance Catastrophe Response Team after Hurricane Ike. They can be viewed at www.BoatUS.com/podcasts.