Irene upgraded to category three hurricane

HURRICANE Irene intensified to category three status tonight as it bore down on the Bahamas on a path that could see it slam into the US mainland, US forecasters said.

At 10pm (AEST), Irene was packing winds of 185 km/h and was located about 85 kms southeast of Acklins Island, Bahamas, where authorities braced for its imminent arrival, the National Hurricane Center said.

“Irene becomes a category three hurricane,” the centre said. “Eye headed for the Crooked and Acklins Islands.”

The upgrade made Irene, the first hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, a major hurricane.

“Data from an air force reserve hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 185 km/h with higher gusts,” it said.

The hurricane is on a track to curve up the eastern seaboard of the US, possibly making landfall in the Carolinas on Saturday, but also on a track that could sweep by Washington, New York and Boston.

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