Hurricane Irene Expected to Hit Florida as Early as Thursday

Irene, the first hurricane in the Atlantic in the 2011 season, is expected to reach Florida between Thursday and Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

According to a release from the NHC at 5 a.m. today, "Irene has become much better organized" overnight, despite bowling over Puerto Rico yesterday.

Some of the forecasting models from the NHC have Irene going to Florida's west coast, and others show it going "well east" of the state, while the rest of the models show Irene "tightly packed between these two extremes and take Irene through the Bahamas and just off the Florida east coast."

The update also says Irene won't interact with Hispaniola as much as forecasters thought it would, and the storm will now strengthen more than they expected.

As usual, forecasters don't know exactly what's going to happen, so they say it's important to not focus on the exact path of the storm.

As of 5 a.m. today, the storm was moving at 14 mph with a maximum wind speed of 75 mph, west-northwest of Puerto Rico.

There are a few variables that will determine whether the storm strengthens or weakens over the next few days, but at least one model predicts the Irene will be a category two hurricane by the time it reaches Florida:

The next complete advisory from the NHC will come at 11 a.m., and you can find all of their updates here.

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