Hurricane Irene, now a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, is expected to miss Florida but come close to North Carolina this weekend.
In North Carolina, where some forecasters predict that the hurricane could make U.S. landfall, tourists on Ocracoke Island, accessible only by boat, have been asked to evacuate, according to reports.
Hurricane experts said the storm is not expected to hit Florida, although the east coast of the state could experience tropical-storm-strength winds, rip tides, shore erosion and rain from the storm, whose center is expected to be about 150 miles offshore.
Flash flooding and power outage warnings have been issued along the East Coast from Florida to Maine.
As computer models continue to shift Irene's path eastward it remains uncertain where or whether the storm will make landfall in the United States this weekend. Should it hit the East Coast, Irene likely will do so as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 131 to155 miles per hour, some experts warned.
At 8 a.m., Irene was about 335 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, and hurricane warnings were in effect for the southeastern, central and northwestern Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The core of Irene is expected to move over the southeastern and central Bahamas today and over the northwestern Bahamas Thursday.