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It’s looking more likely that the rapidly intensifying Hurricane Irene, which has already cut a destructive path through the Caribbean, will impact North Carolina and possibly make landfall in the state this weekend, WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said Tuesday.

Predictions by the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Irene was likely to become a major Category 3 hurricane Tuesday. By Thursday, as it roars toward the U.S. coast over warm open waters, it could become a Category 4, with winds from 131 to 155 mph.

Early Tuesday, Irene had maximum sustained winds around 100 mph and was centered about 50 miles northeast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. The hurricane was moving west-northwest at 12 mph and could eventually land in the Carolinas, Florida or Georgia.

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