Hurricane Irene is now predicted to move farther inland along the East Coast than previously expected. The warning “cone” issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Thursday placed areas like New York City, Long Island, Atlantic City and Virginia City near the center of the Category 3 storm’s path.
New York City officials have begun preparing to evacuate residents located in low-lying areas of the city if it proves to be necessary, reported the Associated Press.
"We hope for the best but we prepare for the worst and that's why I think this city is ready for this weekend," Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters while outlining the city's hurricane preparations on Thursday.
Bloomberg said it was too early to determine whether or not Irene would hit NYC but emergency officials are preparing for heavy rains and winds of 60 mph or more.
According to the Mayor, a command center at the Office of Emergency Management had been activated and all of NYC’s emergency response agencies had additional staff on hand.
Bloomberg stated that officials are prepared to order mandatory evacuations but “only in the worst of circumstances.”
According to Bloomberg, the police were positioning 50 boats at station houses located in low-lying areas. He added that the Special Operations Division of the police department had another 33 boats and several helicopters ready to rescue New Yorkers if necessary, Reuters reported.
As of 2 p.m. Thursday the eye of Irene was over Abaco Island in the Bahamas the NHC stated.
The storm was moving north-northwest and has maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. Hurricane Irene was about 105 miles north of Nassau and around 610 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Forecasters predicted that Irene would “pass well offshore of the east coast of central and north Florida tonight and early Friday.”
Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the coast of North Carolina on Saturday.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the central and northern Bahamas.
NHC has also issued a hurricane watch north of Surf City, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border – including the Pamlico, Albemarle, and Currituck Sounds.