Irene continues to move toward US; Tropical Storm Warning for SC

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The National Weather Service is reporting that Hurricane Irene is continuing on a slow path toward the US coast as South Carolina remains under a tropical storm warning.

A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.The National Weather Service report for 11 p.m. indicates that Irene is continuing to move toward the north, northwest at 14 mph. The motion is expected to continue through Thursday night with a turn toward the north by early Friday.

On the forecast track, the core of the hurricane will move north of the northwestern Bahamas Thursday night and pass well offshore of the east coast of central and north Florida Thursday night and early Friday.

The hurricane is forecast to approach the coast of North Carolina on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph with higher gusts. Irene is currently a category three hurricane with some strengthening possible Thursday night tonight and Friday.

The closest the storm is expected to get to the Charleston coastline is about 150 miles east early Saturday morning, but that could still result in tropical storm force winds because of the large size of the storm. If the storm's track shifts further west, the area could see more dangerous conditions.

The biggest impact for the Lowcountry will be large surf and deadly rip currents Thursday and Friday. Residents are urged to stay out of the water.

[Track the storm with our interactive hurricane tracker]

The storm is still predicted to make landfall, or a very close call , near the eastern edge of the Outer Banks in N.C.

For those under a watch, now is the time to begin preparing your home or business according to your hurricane disaster plan. If you live on a boat, begin to safely secure your craft and make plans to leave it for adequate land based shelter. Small craft should not operate during the Tropical Storm Watch.

An advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center at 2 a.m. Thursday said Irene is moving northwest at 11 mph. A turn toward the north-northwest and then north are expected Thursday morning and Thursday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The latest official forecast track has the storm increasing to a category 4 storm with 135 mph wind speeds by early Thursday morning with a more pronounced turn to the north expected Thursday afternoon.

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