The U.S. National Hurricane Center has issued an advisory that Hurricane Irene could grow to Category 4 from its current Category 3 stage as it moves across the Bahamas.

The forecasters further warned that the devastating storm could trace a path through the North Carolina coast and affect the whole U.S. East Coast northward.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, however, asked the media to stop scaring people.

You will never endanger your tourists, but you also don't want to overinflate the sense of urgency about the storm. And so let's just hang on, she told the Los Angeles Times.

As the storm continued to batter the Bahamas Wednesday, the hurricane center predicted an increase in wind speed from 120 mph to 135 by Thursday evening.

The prime minister of the Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham, confirmed that there has been extensive damage on the sparsely populated Mayaguana and Cat Islands of the lower Bahamas, but no reports of any casualities or loss of life.

To avoid any kind of mishaps, tourists in Bahamas have cut short their trips and taken the last flights out before closure of the airports.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials are preparing for what could be the makings of a historic storm.

The storm got very well organized as she passed farther away from the big island of Hispaniola, said Bill Read, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center in Miami, during a briefing on Wednesday.

The effects of the hurricane in the form of tropical-storm, maybe even hurricane-force winds, rain, beach erosion, and tidal surge will be in play from the mid-Atlantic all the way up through New England as the storm progresses, he added.


1. As of 11 p.m. EDT, the hurricane center predicts the approach of a dangerous hurricane nearing the north-western coast of Bahamas with the possibility of storm surges as much as 7 to 11 feet above normal tide levels.

2. Rainfall is expected to produce accumulations of 6 to 12 inches over the Bahamas in the next 36 hours.

3. Swells generated by Irene are also predicted to affect portions of the coast of the southeastern United States on Thursday and could be life-threatening.