Following an historic earthquake, Virginia is preparing itself for the onslaught of Category 3 Hurricane Irene, which is expected to reach the Northeast coast of the U.S. by this weekend.

Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the 5.8 quake might provide a blueprint on how to cope with Irene. The quake was one of the strongest to hit the East Coast in nearly a century.

It reminded people that the unexpected can happen, he told reporters. The earthquake reminded us that we’ve got to be prepared for a variety of things.

Already, residents and tourists are being evacuated from the barrier islands of the Outer banks of North Carolina.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Irene has wind speeds of up to 115 mph.

Fugate and National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read warned that North Carolina and Virginia might be placed under a hurricane watch on Thursday in the event Irene follows its projected course up the Eastern Seaboard.

Irene got very well organized overnight, said Read.

Fugate said that even though the storm will likely pass by miles away from the Virginia coast, it's likely to produce torrential rainfall and heavy winds in the state, and that could lead to flash floods.

This is the time to prepare, said Fugate. For many folks in the Mid-Atlantic and other states in the Northeast, they still have time to prepare, but that time will run out.