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Monday
Aug222011

Irene Strengthens, Becomes First Hurricane of 2011 Atlantic Season

National Hurricane Center/NOAA/ National Weather Service(MIAMI) -- Irene officially became the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season after it picked up strength over Puerto Rico early Monday morning.

Hurricane Irene is now packing top winds of 75 miles an hour and is centered about 25 miles west of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It is moving north/northwest and is expected to approach the Dominican Republic later Monday.

"On this forecast track, the center of Irene will be moving off the coast of Puerto Rico this morning and move near or over the northern coast of the Dominican Republic this afternoon and tonight," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

It is not yet known exactly how Irene will affect the U.S., but Feltgen says people should keep their eyes open.

"As far as its direct impacts on the United States are concerned it's still a little unclear," he said.  "But we are urging residents along the southeast coast in general and Florida in particular to pay close attention to this storm."

For now, the National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for parts of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.  A hurricane watch has also been issued for central Bahamas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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