7:50 AM | Heavy rains and damaging winds arrive by later today

Hurricane Irene is nearing landfall this morning in eastern North Carolina as a strong category 1 storm and should continue on a track that will take it to near Atlantic City, New Jersey by early Sunday -likely still as a category 1 hurricane. This track right over the coastline will send heavy rain and damaging winds our way during the brunt of the storm from mid-to-late afternoon into early tomorrow morning with up to 6 inches possible in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. Note - there will be some occasional showers and thunderstorms ahead of the main event during the late morning and early afternoon and some of that rain can even fall heavy at times. The heaviest amounts of rainfall will occur from the District and points to the east with lighter amounts west of DC. For example, Manassas and Chantilly could get 2-4 inches of rain from this storm while Bethesda and Laurel receive 4-6 inches. This amount of rain on top of already saturated grounds will likely cause numerous flooding problems around the area. If you are in a flood prone area plan to leave before the brunt of the storm begins as waters could rise rapidly. Spiraling bands of moisture will pinwheel around the center of Irene over the next 24 hours and each one of these bands can generate heavy rains and damaging winds. Peak wind gusts could reach the 40-60 mph range which is likely to bring down some trees or limbs causing power outages. The Eastern Shore can expect to receive hurricane-force wind gusts of up to 80 mph or so and perhaps 10 inches of rain. Sunday will actually likely bring us the return of some sunny intervals. A summary follows of the expected rainfall amounts and peak wind gusts with numerous power outages and flooding problems expected throughout the Mid-Atlantic region: DC, 3-6 inches, 40-60 mph peak gusts (the higher amounts from DC and points to the east) Philly, 5-10 inches, 50-70 mph peak gusts NYC, 8-12 inches, 60-80 mph peak gusts Atlantic City, 8-12 inches, 60-80 mph peak gusts Boston, 3-6 inches, 60-70 mph peak gusts