UPDATE: Hurricane Irene has been upgraded to a category 3 hurricane.
(MIAMI) -- Hurricane Irene is pounding the Southeastern Bahamas Wednesday morning and mustering strength as it continues on its projected path towards the Southern East Coast of the United States.
The storm is forecast to hit the Carolinas later this week, and by that time it may be a major hurricane.
Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says Irene's "maximum sustained winds are now 110 miles per hour with higher gusts," making the storm a "strong category 2 hurricane." But that is expected to change.
"We do expect it to strengthen into a category 3 sometime today [Wednesday]," he says.
Feltgen advises residents along the Eastern coastline, "from South Carolina all the way up to Maine," to pay close attention to Irene.
He warns, "This is a large storm so even if the storm remained well off-shore we could possibly see some heavy rain and strong rains along the coastal sections of the mid-Atlantic states all the way up into New England."
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