NC Island Evacuated as Irene Approaches
Storm could be Cat 4 monster by the time it reaches coast
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 24, 2011 5:38 AM CDT
Hurricane Irene is expected to wallop the North Carolina Outer Banks as it moves up the east coast.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

(Newser) – North Carolina is bracing for what could be the strongest storm to hit the state since 1998's Hurricane Bonnie. Thousands of people have been ordered to leave the barrier island Ocracoke as Hurricane Irene, currently a Category 2 storm but expected to strengthen further, moves toward the coast, the AP reports. Tourists have been told to get off the island today; Ocracoke's 800 or so year-round residents have been told to leave tomorrow. Forecasters expect the storm to hit the Carolina coast on the weekend, possibly as a Category 4, and move up the coast to the Northeast.