Coastal Residents Prep as Irene Strengthens

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Hurricane Irene remains on a collision course with America's East Coast.

The powerful storm system gained Category 3 strength Wednesday morning and officials at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say it's expected to get bigger.

Click here follow the latest track of Irene from the National Hurricane Center.

Residents of the Bahamas can only wait while Irene makes its way up the island chain.

For Bahamians, the strong winds and heavy rains aren't their biggest concern. The tidal surge could sweep inland with waves possibly coming in at up to 11-feet high.

"Well, it's a big hurricane. It's the worst they've had since '04, and this is the first one I've been in over here. So we'll see how it goes," one tourist said.

Irene has already shown its destructive power across the Caribbean. The storm knocked out power to a million residents in Puerto Rico, caused flooding in the Dominican Republic, and hammered the Turks and Caicos islands with damaging winds Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, meteorologists are warning the entire U.S. eastern seaboard to be on alert.

"It's still been able to maintain its hurricane status. So as it lifts off to the north and northwest, we expect Irene to intensify rapidly, possibly reaching a hurricane force status by the time we get into Thursday. That means sustained winds of at least 131 miles-per-hour," Accuweather meteorologist Bernie Rayno told CBN News.

Click play to watch the latest report on Irene, followed by analysis from meteorologist Joe Bastardi. Also, stay up to date with the latest bulletins and advisories on Hurricane Irene here.

Irene is the first hurricane to threaten the U.S. in three years. It could reach category 4 strength before it comes ashore.

The current projected path has the system making landfall in the Carolinas and then working its way up the East Coast.

"We have boards to go over our windows. We went out and got a few supplies today. Not too many, but before everyone else wiped everything out. So we're going to see what happens," East Coast visitor Tracey Wojtowicz said.

Forecasters say Irene could remain a hurricane all the way up to New England, an area not accustomed to such strong storms.

But they stress that the storm can change direction at any time and predictions made this far in advance can be off by 100 miles.

Officials are warning East Coast residents that even though the forecast is still uncertain, a very strong storm may be only days away from hitting the U.S.

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Efrem Graham

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.