Maine residents, who are used to severe storms and have been know to take severe weather events relatively calmly when others did not, are nevertheless in no way underestimating the power of Hurricane Irene, which packs damaging winds and torrential rain.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon, to enable state, county, and municipal governments to respond effectively to the impact of Hurricane Irene, which is expected to hit Maine on Sunday and Monday, reported Saturday.

I urge all Maine Citizens to take necessary steps to prepare and heed all warnings issued in connection with this event, said LePage. We continue to have daily updates with Maine Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service. We will continue to monitor this changing situation statewide and plan for all possible emergencies.

Portland Opens Shelter, Saturday 8 p.m.

The City of Portland will open a hurricane shelter Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT at the Portland Expo for people seeking protection from Hurricane Irene, Portland Fire Chief Fred Lamontagne said at a news conference Saturday, reported.

Evacuees who take shelter at the Civic Center will be provided with basic necessities and pets will be allowed. Officials reminded residents not to forget to bring prescription medications.

However, because Irene has weakened and is expected to head into Maine as a tropical storm, the city is holding-off from recommending that residents evacuate from low-lying areas or from the outer islands.

I advise all residents to treat (the storm) as seriously as we are, Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones said at a news conference Saturday, reported.  He suggested residents secure outside furniture, shut windows, stock up on enough food and water to last three days and avoid downed power lines.

Maine Under Tropical Storm Watch

The National Weather Service put the entire state under a tropical storm watch for Sunday. The heaviest rain and wind is expected to hit Maine and New Hampshire on Sunday night.

Irene's winds are expected to gust to 60 or 70 miles per hour (mph) after the storm enters the state on Sunday, meteorologists said.

Concerning Irene's position, as of 11 a.m. EDT, Irene, a Category 1 hurricane, was straddling the South Carolina / North Carolina border with winds up to 85 miles per hour (mph), moving north/north east at about 15 miles per hour.

Irene did make land-fall in the Carolinas, but meteorologists say that can be deceptive: hurricanes frequently touch land, then skirt the coast, before moving back out on to the sea, where they re-strengthen. In other words, Irene could re-strengthen in the day ahead -- creating even more damaging wind, storm surge, and rain.

Irene is expected to cause tens of millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue in Maine, as people alter their travel plans or cancel trips altogether, said Charles Colgan of the University of Southern Maine's Muskie Institute of Public Service in Portland, reported.

Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush are planning to ride out Hurricane Irene at their summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, The Associated Press reported.

But Jim Appleby, spokesman for the Bushes, says plans are made to move them to inland if the surf and wind become too rough at their Walker's Point home.

Appleby said the Bushes want to stress that they are going to follow what the emergency management officials direct them to do.

See Also: Hurricane Irene 2011 - 12 Survival Tips