Hurricane Irene's current path may take it straight to the New York area. Forecast models show the storm could hit Long Island by late Sunday afternoon or Sunday night at Category 1 strength, packing winds of up to at least 80 miles per hour.

Hurricane Irene gained strength Tuesday night and is now a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The storm is projected to reach the East Coast beginning Friday and into the weekend, and already authorities are telling New York area residents to be on alert.

Early Wednesday, Hurricane Irene was upgraded to a Category 3 storm -- moving it into the major storm grouping.

The storm is likely to approach southeast Virginia on Saturday night before moving just off the New Jersey shore on Sunday. Hurricane Irene could make landfall on Long Island or in southeast New England late Sunday afternoon or Sunday night.

Heavy rain, pounding surf, rip currents and strong winds are expected along the the coast into New England as the storm approaches and passes.

This is a good time to get prepared again in your homes. There's items that you should stock up on, those that need to move or possibly be evacuated, perhaps seniors should think about having their medications refilled and having enough on hand, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano told CBS New York.

On Tuesday, New Yorkers were shaken by an earthquake registering 5.8. A U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist said an earthquake of that magnitude is rare for the East Coast. There are fault lines throughout the East Coast, but typically quakes in the region are shallow.

Thus, while it was a significant shake, damage from the quake was mostly confined to the epicenter, in the Virginia and Washington areas.

I thought I was having a nervous attack, said one employee of a Manhattan cafe, describing how the earthquake felt.

Irene has the potential to be a serious and multiple-hazard threat for New York and other highly populated areas along the I-95 corridor. The potential for flooding rains, high winds, widespread power outages and down trees and power lines on Sunday and into Monday is very high, authorities say.

Storm paths are always uncertain, but officials are already warning New York area residents to be on alert.

But before Irene reaches New York, the powerful and strengthening storm could wreak havoc as it makes its way up the East Coast. The threat level for the east coast of Florida has been decreased to low as it looks like the Sunshine State got off easy this time, as the storm plows toward the Carolinas.

Forecasts show Irene could clip the Outer Banks of North Carolina by late Friday as a Category 3 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of up to at least 120 miles per hour.