Hurricane Irene Plots Path of Devastation From North Carolina to New York (PHOTOS)

Hurricane Irene is set to smash into the U.S. East Coast and warning evacuations have now been expanded to New York and Connecticut.

The storm, which has already hit the Bahamas, is now being forecast as moving westward to the U.S. mainland, and it is set to continue on its northbound course up the coast.

Other East Coast areas along North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey have already been told to evacuate with hundreds of thousands of people being moved to safety.

Hurricane Irene(Reuters/NOAA/National Environment Satellite, Data and Information Service)Handout image courtesy of NOAA shows a visible view of Hurricane Irene captured by the GOES-East satellite on August 25, 2011. The National Hurricane Center is still predicting Irene to reach category 4 status within the next day. Hurricane and tropical storm watches are in effect for much of the Carolina coastline.

 Meteorologists at AccuWeather estimate that by the time Irene hits land, it will be a Category 3 storm. However, there is still a strong possibility that the storm could strengthen into a more powerful Category 4 storm.

Irene poses a serious threat to the East Coast and thus far six states have declared a state of emergency, including North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.

Hurricane Irene(Reuters/Steve Nesius)Scott Thomas holds a plywood shutter in position while his brother Brynn Thomas (R) secures it to a window of their beachside home as they prepare for Hurricane Irene in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, August 25, 2011.

 The states have done to garner Federal resources and National Guard troops to deal with the anticipated damage and destruction ahead of time.

The storm is set to hit North Carolina first, with winds around 115 mph, and will bring high winds, a massive downpour of rain that will likely cause extensive flooding, and it is thought there will be widespread power outages.

Following North Carolina, Irene is slated to move on a path that lands it in New York by Sunday.

Hurricane Irene(Reuters/Mike Segar)A shopper passes empty shelves while looking for bottled water at a supermarket in Long Beach on Long Island, New York, August 26, 2011. As North Carolina braced on Friday for a direct hit from Hurricane Irene, cities along the East Coast were on alert and millions of beach goers cut short vacations to escape the powerful storm. With more than 50 million people potentially in Irene's path, residents stocked up on food and water and worked to secure homes, vehicles and boats. States, cities, ports, oil refineries and nuclear plants scrambled to activate emergency plans.

 New York has ordered the evacuation of nursing homes and senior centers in low-lying areas.

The New York Times also reported that the city is making plans for “the unprecedented shutdown of the entire transit system.”

Mayor Bloomberg told reporters: “We hope for the best but we prepare for the worst,” and added that the city would arrange for helicopters and small boats to help evacuate low-lying areas.

By the time the hurricane is set to hit New York, it is anticipated that it will become a Category 2 storm that carries winds of 96 to 100 mph.

Hurricane Irene(Reuters/Joe Skipper)A surfer walks along the beach as rain bands from Hurricane Irene passes off the Florida coastline in Deerfield Beach, Florida August 25, 2011. Hurricane Irene will affect eastern North Carolina on Saturday as a major hurricane and the U.S. eastern seaboard north from there is within its path, U.S. National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said on Thursday.