Over the past few hours, Hurricane Irene’s minimum central pressure has dropped a bit (from 947mb to 942mb) and therefore has strengthened a little bit. Maximum sustained winds are still at 115 mph, but I expect them to pick up in the next 3-6 hours. Irene is now over open, warm waters and the eye has become more defined, which is a sign of strengthening. Reaching Category 4 strength is still not out of question.
Irene is on the path toward the North Carolina coast in the next 36 hours. Some weakening is expected after 24 hours from now. Therefore, Irene is forecast to strike the NC coast as a strong Category 2 or a minimal Category 3 hurricane. Wave heights will be significantly high with this storm all along the eastern coast of the United States. One buoy, located northwest of where Irene currently is, is showing wave heights of just over 29 feet!