Irene is getting stronger faster tonight. It lashing the northern end of the Dominican Republic and the strengthening may be due to the very warm water north of Hispaniola as well as relatively light wind shear. As hurricane hunters flew into the storm, they quickly discovered the stronger storm and the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm to category 2 status. Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern and Central Bahamas.
A stronger storm now could become an even stronger storm later in the week and the East Coast from Florida to the Carolinas is bracing for what could be the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. since Wilma struck Florida in October, 2005. The forecast track has Irene growing to a destructive Category 4 as it passes over Nassau and Freeport Thursday. Then, it could make a landfall near Myrtle Beach as a category 3 hurricane late Saturday. However, there is a lot of uncertainty as to where the storm will end up due to critical timing of upper-level steering influences. Note that this track can and will change. However, it is improbable that Irene will change course and head toward the Gulf.