As Hurricane Irene batters the northern Bahamas on as it heads toward the East Coast on Thursday, train services were canceled and workers scrambled to protect power lines in the U.S. capital, Washington D.C.

Irene, the first hurricane to threaten the U.S. in three years, will mark the second natural disaster in a week for D.C., which was shaken by Tuesday's 5.8-magnitude earthquake that even cracked the Washington Monument.

Now turning into a major Category 3 storm, Irene is expected to make landfall in North Carolina Saturday morning, moving North and Northeast towards Virginia, the Delmarva Peninsula and the lower Chesapeake Bay.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch and hazardous weather outlook for the capital and nearby Virginia and Maryland for a storm system preceding Irene's arrival, reports Reuters.

Some of these thunderstorms may become severe ... producing damaging wind gusts and locally large hail, reads the alert.

 

As the entire East Coast prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, her path, if deviated from the original prediction, can hit the D.C. and Baltimore area, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate.

This will not just be a coastal storm, Fugate said in a conference call Thursday morning. We can see impacts well inland both from winds that can cause widespread power outages as trees fall down but also flooding.

 

According to the Washington Post, here is what to expect in the Washington D.C. area, though subject to change:

Loudoun/Frederick/Fauquier counties and points west: Chance of showers Saturday developing mainly Saturday afternoon. Possible brief periods of heavy showers and gusty winds (up to 20 to 30 mph) Saturday night, especially after midnight. Rain ends Sunday morning. Rainfall potential: trace to half an inch.

Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince William, Stafford and Howard counties and the District: Showers likely developing Saturday midday to afternoon. Periods of rain, possibly heavy Saturday night, mainly after 8 p.m. Windy at times with gusts 20-40 mph. Rain ends by late Sunday morning. Rainfall potential: 0.5-2. Minor to moderate flooding possible in tidal Potomac, especially north facing shores.

 

Saturday night is expected to be the peak of the hurricane for D.C., as the storm center passes off the Virginia capes, and conditions will gradually recover in the D.C. area Sunday.

Amtrak canceled trains operating south of Washington for Friday through Sunday, and suggested the possibility of additional cancellations.

Irene could threaten the dedication event for Martin Luther King Jr., scheduled to be held on Sunday. Tens of thousands of people, including President Barack Obama are expected to attend the 11 a.m. event at the National Mall. The dedication's organizers said the ceremony could be moved from morning to afternoon depending on the weather.

 

Later on Thursday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency ahead of the westward moving, behemoth of a storm.

At this time, I encourage all Virginians to gather items they may need this weekend in case of power outages and disruptions in public services and to make sure their family members and friends are also prepared for this storm, McDonell said.

Irene could strengthen to a Category 4 storm over the next 36 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm holds the potential to wreak havoc along the East Coast, with torrential rains, high winds, downed trees, flooding and power outages in major metropolitan areas including Philadelphia, New York, and Boston by late Sunday.

The governors of New York and Connecticut ordered agencies to make ready for the storm. In Rhode Island, officials plan to activate a 24-hour operations center, said Denis Riel, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For New York City, hurricane evacuation zones are specified in a hurricane evacuation map.