Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a category two storm on Thursday, but meteorologists warn it will strengthen before it slams the Atlantic coast this weekend and could affects as many as 65 million people.
The Associated Press reports hurricane watches and warnings have sprung up all the way along the coast and many North Carolina residents are fleeing their homes as large waves started pummeling the shores.
Perhaps most unusual is that New York City is directly in the line of fire. City officials warned residents to get ready to move elsewhere, and a number of events including the Yankees game and U.S. Open tennis tournament have already been postponed due to the impending storm.
The hurricane could be the first such event to strike the Big Apple in the last several decades. The largest storm to strike the city was the New England Hurricane of 1938 which killed more than 600 people.
The full scope of damage that could be caused by Irene is still in question, however. The storms path appears to be regularly fluctuating, but Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate said that he was anticipating any and all scenarios.
"We're going to have damages, we just don't know how bad," Craig Fugate told the AP. "This is one of the largest populations that will be impacted by one storm at one time."
The first major hurricane of 2011, Irene is currently packing 110 mile per hour winds and represents a stark contrast compared to 2010 which saw no major storms hit the United States.