Phila., Del., N.J., now under a hurricane warning

PHILADELPHIA - August 26, 2011

RELATED: Get the latest track of Irene with the 6abc.com Hurricane Tracker.

The latest track takes Irene near Morehead City, North Carolina, near Cape Hatteras on Saturday, then up over Sussex County, Delaware, as a CAT 2 hurricane and over Cape May County, NJ, on Sunday.

As it moves inland, the storm will likely weaken to a CAT 1 hurricane as it moves up toward the Hudson Bay.

Click here to see a complete set of evacuation route maps for the New Jersey coast.

At this point, it appears periods of heavy rain and strong winds are possible beginning late Saturday night and through most of Sunday across the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys, with the strongest winds closer to the coast.

For eastern New Jersey, wind gusts could be 70 mph to 100 mph.

For the I-95 corridor and up to the north and west, we could see 50 mph to 70 mph wind gusts.

Flooding is possible, along with downed trees and power outages. Things could change, but this is what we are seeing as a potential as of now.

No matter the track, dangerous rip currents will be present in the ocean waters along Delaware and New Jersey beginning Friday and probably not subsiding until Sunday night.

President Barack Obama has declared an emergency for North Carolina that is expected to be hit by Hurricane Irene over the weekend. Obama on Thursday night ordered federal aid to supplement state and local responses to the storm.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a state of emergency declaration on Thursday afternoon as the storm drew closer. A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for Cape May County and Atlantic County. A voluntary evacuation has been issued by the Atlantic County Office of Emergency preparedness for the Barrier Islands beginning at 8:00pm Thursday. Forecasters predict Irene to make landfall by 10 a.m. Sunday near Cape May.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell has also ordered a state of emergency starting at 6:00 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters predict Irene to make landfall 7 a.m. Sunday at Rehoboth and Bethany beaches.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter says the storm could be the worst to hit the city in at least 50 years. August has already been one of the rainiest months in city history.

Thousands were fleeing an exposed strip of coastal villages and beaches off North Carolina on Thursday as Irene approached, threatening to become the most powerful hurricane to hit the East Coast in seven years.

Hours after a hurricane watch was issued for much of the state's coast, emergency officials expanded evacuation orders to include hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals in four coastal counties. The areas include the barrier island chain known as the Outer Banks, which is expected to take the brunt of Irene's first hit over the weekend.

The storm was pounding the Bahamas with widespread damage reported on at least two southern islands but no immediate reports of major injuries or deaths. A settlement known as Lovely Bay was destroyed while at least 40 homes were badly damaged on the island of Mayaguana, emergency officials said.

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RELATED: How to prepare for Hurricane Irene

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