Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 season has been classified as a Category 3 storm as of Wednesday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center has reported maximum winds of 115 mph (185 kph) as Irene advances through the Caribbean toward the U.S.
The hurricane has been building momentum as a tropical storm since last week and finally hit land in Puerto Rico on Monday. In the midst of torrential rains, heavy winds, flooding and collapsed trees and power lines, among other destruction, no injuries have been reported.
Currently, Irene is out-skirting southeast of the Bahamas islands after pummeling through the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos, where street signs were ripped out of the ground and several buildings were destroyed.
Associated Press reports that the storm is currently about 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Nassau, Bahamas and is moving west-northwest near 9 mph (15 kph). It will move through the Bahamas in the next two days.
Bahamian residents are doing their best to prepare for the storm, clearing out shelves in Nassau convenience stores. Many hurricane veterans are nervous about the fact that Irene is now Category 3.
"I just want to blink my eyes and have it be Friday so I can see what's left," Pamela Klonaris, who has lived through several storms over 41 years, told Palm Beach Post.
"We've stayed through every hurricane, but I don't know about a Category 3."
The NHC projects that Irene will soon become a Category 4 hurricane; they expect to see 125 mph (201 kph) winds in the northwest Bahamas as early as midday Thursday; which is just 5 mph below the criteria for Category 4.
In the U.S., several southern and southeastern states are also preparing for Irene's destruction.
Tourists and residents of Ocracoke Island, a small barrier island off North Carolina, have been ordered to evacuate.
Irene is expected to affect a great deal of the east coast, and may cause flooding and power outages as far as Maine, according to ABC News.
Manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Craig Fugate has warned that residents from the Mid-Atlantic region to New England should also be preparing for Irene hitting land in the U.S.
"It's going to be close and whether we get a brush or whether we have a landfall, it's too early to say," he said.
"Go ahead and make sure you're ready and then if evacuations are required, heed those evacuation orders. The Hurricane Center says this storm is going to grow and strengthen...and it's really something people need to be prepared now for so they can be ready if they have to act."