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PHOTO GALLERY: Hurricane Irene headed toward U.S. coast

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | 2:39 p.m. CDT; updated 1:51 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 26, 2011
Pike Harrington boards up his windows on his beach home in Nags Head, N.C., on Thursday in North Carolina's Outer Banks. A hurricane watch was issued early Thursday for much of the North Carolina coast. Officials along the East Coast of the United States are calculating what they need to do if Irene becomes the first major hurricane to strike the region in seven years.

Hurricane Irene continues its path to the U.S. with possible landfall in North Carolina by Saturday. Forecasters predict it will then chug up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form trudges through New England.

For the most recent photos of the hurricane, see our latest gallery.

This satellite image provided by NOAA and taken at 12:15 GMT Thursday shows Hurricane Irene as it approaches the northwestern Bahamas as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds at 115 mph. Forecasters say Irene has slowed just a bit but is still expected to rev up again when it takes aim at the East Coast and could become a Category 4 monster.
Todd Ketch of Woodbridge, Va., packs up his family's belongings as they prepare to evacuate in Nags Head, N.C., on Thursday. Hurricane Irene is threatening the North Carolina Outer Banks as it moves up the East Coast.
Tugboats help Navy guided missile destroyers the Jason Dunham, left, and the the Winston Churchill, leave the Norfolk Naval Station Thursday morning as Hurricane Irene approaches. The U.S. Navy ordered more than 60 ships out to safer waters. so they could better weather the storm.
Jonna Packer, right, and Raymond Braxton, of Morehead City, N.C., watch the surf at Atlantic Beach, N.C., on Thursday. A hurricane watch was issued early Thursday for much of the North Carolina coast. Officials along the East Coast of the United States are calculating what they need to do if Irene becomes the first major hurricane to strike the region in seven years.
Residents sweep the mud off their house in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic after it was flooded by an overflowed river due to the passing of Hurricane Irene on Wednesday.
Residents search for their belongings in their damaged houses in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, after they were flooded by an overflowed river due to the passing of Hurricane Irene on Wednesday. Flooding, rising rivers and mudslides have prompted the Dominican Republic government to evacuate nearly 38,000 people and more slides were likely in coming days because of days of intense rain from the storm system.
Residents watch the water outside their home in the Moscu neighborhood of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic of an overflowed river after the passing of Hurricane Irene on Wednesday. Flooding, rising rivers and mudslides have prompted the Dominican Republic government to evacuate nearly 38,000 people and more slides were likely in coming days because of days of intense rain from the storm system.
Michael Aymonin fills up spare gasoline containers at Costco in preparation for Hurricane Irene, in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.
Residents watch the sea surge due to the approach of Hurricane Irene to Nagua, in the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, on Monday. Hurricane Irene churned into a stronger Category 2 storm on Monday evening, after raking Puerto Rico with strong winds and rain that knocked out power to more than a million people, on a track that could carry it to the U.S. as a major storm by the end of the week.
Civil defense workers prepare to remove debris from a road after Hurricane Irene hit the area in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, on Monday. Hurricane Irene headed out over warm ocean water on a path that could take it to to the U.S. mainland by the end of the week.
A woman is carried on a stretcher by civil defense workers after she was unable to attend a respiratory therapy session after Hurricane Irene struck and flooded the area she lives in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, on Monday.
Senior Hurricane Specialists Michael Brennan, center, Lixion Avila, right, and Branch Chief James Franklin, left, look over a public advisory on Hurricane Irene before putting it out at the National Hurricane Center in Miami on Monday. As of the 5 p.m. advisory, the center of Hurricane Irene was estimated to be near latitude 19.5 North, longitude 68.6 West, moving toward the West-Northwest near 13 MPH.
This NOAA satellite image taken Tuesday shows Hurricane Irene, located about about 55 miles south of Grand Turk Island, north of Puerto Rico. The system is now a category 2 storm with winds up to 100 mph, and intensification to category 3 strength is likely. The system will continue approaching the Eastern U.S., with landfall likely along the South Carolina and North Carolina border sometime on Saturday.
A man wades through a flooded street after hurricane Irene hit the area in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, on Monday. Hurricane Irene headed out over warm ocean water on a path that could take it to the U.S. mainland by the end of the week.

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