- (Reuters/Joe Skipper)
Hurricane Irene’s maximum sustained winds have dropped to 105 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported Friday morning.
The U.S. East Coast is bracing itself for the storm’s arrival, but the center now says it does not expect Hurricane Irene to strengthen before it hits the East Coast.
The hurricane is now a Category 2 storm with winds of 96 mph to 110 mph, which does not present as big of a threat of damage as previously touted. Winds of that speed are of course considered very dangerous though, and certainly capable of causing widespread destruction.
In the Bahamas, government officials have lifted the warnings associated with the hurricane.
Power outages from Hurricane Irene are still cautioned, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate says.
Many Americans have heeded evacuation demands along the East Coast, and the storm is predicted to reach the areas early Saturday morning.
Irene continues to pose a serious threat, and so far six states have declared a state of emergency, including North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
States have done so to open the possibility of summoning federal resources and National Guard task forces to help with anticipated emergency situations.
As many as 65 million Americans along the East Coast could be affected by the storm.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York told reporters: “We hope for the best but we prepare for the worst,” and added that New York City would provide helicopters and small boats near police precincts in low-lying areas to be used in an emergency evacuation situation.
He also suggested New Yorkers avoid parks during the storm warning, and avoid areas where branches and trees could fall.
Mass transit officials in New York are preparing for a possible shutdown starting Saturday, and state officials are coordinating arrangements for emergency services during a possible electricity outage.
Irene is predicted to produce swells of up to 6-9 feet in coastal areas.