Hurricane Irene remained on a path Friday morning to make extraordinary impact in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States, weather forecasters warned.
Irene weakened slightly Friday morning but the storm remains a high-end Category 2 and is expected to regain strength later in the day into a Category 3 storm before assaulting the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and New England.
Current models suggest landfall in Virginia Sunday morning, Washington, D.C., midday Sunday and New York Sunday evening.
Major metropolitan areas including New York, Hartford and Boston are in the line of fire. In fact the entire highly populated I-95 corridor up the U.S. East Coast faces potentially a storm of a lifetime as Irene makes a path up the coast through the end of the weekend.
Current forecast models show Irene is likely to make landfall in the Mid-Atlantic region by early Sunday morning as a strong Category 2 storm with winds of 100 miles per hour or more before reaching New York -- and possibly making a rare direct hit on the city late Sunday while still at hurricane strength.
Weather experts are labeling Irene an extreme threat from eastern North Carolina to southern New England. This is a particularly threatening situation and it's best for people to be on alert, said Dr. Rick Knabb and senior meteorologist Stu Ostro at The Weather Channel.
Computer models are trending toward a forecast solution of rare potency for portions of the Northeast, according to the The Weather Channel experts. They say Irene will be a serious and multi-hazard threat for the major metropolitan areas which include major cities Norfolk, Va.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Philadelphia; New York City; Hartford, Conn., and Boston.
Residents can expect downed trees and power lines, flooding, high winds and power outages, with significant impacts of surge and high waves and beach erosion along coastlines.
Irene will come close to the North Carolina coast late Friday night, with impact through Saturday. Northeast impacts will last through Monday as the Irene drops to tropical storm strength before departing the U.S.
States of emergency have been declared from North Carolina to New York and New Jersey, as officials prepare for what could be a storm of historic impact.