Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee Reuters

Rhode Island is under a state of emergency as it braces for Hurricane Irene’s expected arrival on Sunday morning.

U.S. President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency for the state and ordered federal aid to help with local emergency services. Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee has already imposed a state of emergency.

Governor Chafee said at a press briefing: This is a major storm and there is no question that it will affect Rhode Island.

According to the National Weather Service, (NWS) coastal waters are expected to rise to 10 feet above normal on Saturday afternoon and reach as high as 17 feet by midnight.

NWS warned the Ocean State: “Showers could start arriving Saturday afternoon. Tropical storm conditions -- with hurricane conditions possible -- for Saturday night.”

By Saturday night, wind speeds could reach 29 mph -- with gusts at up to 35 mph. Thereafter, winds will climb as high as 52 mph, with gusts of up to 70 mph.

By Sunday, winds could reach 69 mph -- with possible gusts of up to 90 mph.

Meanwhile, emergency shelters have opened up in the towns of Middletown, Narragansett, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Warwick and Westerly.

We have been working closely with communities across the state to identify appropriate shelter locations and ready people and supplies to open shelters where needed, said American Red Cross spokesperson Paul Shipman, according to the Providence Journal newspaper.

Elderly Rhode Islanders may recall that the state suffered huge losses and deaths during the Great Hurricane of 1938 that hammered it as a Category 3 tempest.

That storm produced tides of up to 25 feet and killed 100 people in the town of Westerly alone.