Hurricane Irene hit the southeastern Bahamas on the morning of August 24 with top winds at 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported. On the previous day, GOES-13 satellite (One of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites) captured this image of the approaching storm. The southern tip of Florida is visible in the upper left corner of the image.

The National Hurricane Center expects Irene to move across the Bahamas through August 24 and 25. By the morning of the latter, the center expects the hurricane to reach Category 4 intensity—it's at Category 3 currently—and remain "large and powerful" for the next five days. It may travel in a curved path north, touching land in North Carolina on August 27 before heading up the eastern coast of the U.S. Evacuations are already underway in one coastal North Carolina county, Bloomberg reported.

Irene's forecast path gets more uncertain later on, so the hurricane may move out to sea or move further inland. But even out at sea, Irene's 50-mile radius of hurricane-force winds and 205-mile radius of tropical storm winds could still batter the East Coast.

—Francie Diep