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Category 3 Hurricane Irene 'pounds' Bahamas

Palm trees blow on an empty beach as

Palm trees blow on an empty beach as bands of rain and wind from Hurricane Irene hit Nassau, on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. (Aug. 24, 2011) Credit: AP

Hurricane Irene, now a Category 3 storm, is "pounding" the Bahamas after gaining strength on a course that may take it near North Carolina this weekend and into southern New England early next week.

Irene's top winds reached 120 mph yesterday, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory. It may reach Category 4 status with 135-mph winds today, the center said.

On Long Island, meteorologist Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service at Upton said at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, that the current track "does take the hurricane over the South Fork of Long Island sometime between 8 a.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday. . . . It's going to be a quick mover once it gets into our neck of the woods. . . . The cone of possibility . . . can vary from eastern Pennsylvania to way out to sea."

"Sometime after 2 p.m. Sunday will be the height of the storm here. I want to stress the uncertainty at this time," Pollina said. "We'll know more as we get closer to the event."

In New York, officials were opening the emergency operations center in Brooklyn, said Chris Gilbride, spokesman for the Office of Emergency Management. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered the state's emergency response team to prepare for Irene, too.

With William Murphy

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