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UPDATE:Thursday Aug. 26, 11 AM PT: The U.S. National Hurricane Center has some good news as winds created by Hurricane Irene have dropped to an average of 100mph with gusts up to 155mph. The hurricane has dropped to a Category 2 hurricane as it is expected to hit or pass near the North Carolina Coast on Saturday. It's located about 300 miles from Cape Hatteras North Carolina and moving at 14mph. It is expected to turn north or northeast Saturday. Category 5 is the most severe. (Katrina averaged winds of 175mph over the Gulf of Mexico and reportedly 125mph when it hit land).
One of the real dangers of hurricanes is the raise in the water level. The water level along the North Carolina coast is expected to raise between 6 and 11 feet.
In this gallery, we'll take a look at how Hurricane Irene looks from space, on maps, and on land, too.
This is an infrared image of Hurricane Irene taken by the GOES satellite.
This 3-day track from August 26 shows the hurricane will likely head up the East Coast before going ashore in Connecticut.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Little River Inlet North Carolina northward to Sandy Hook, New Jersey inluding Pamlico, Albemarle and Currituck Sounds, Deleware Bay, and Chesapeake Bay south of Drum Point.
The 5-day cone shows Hurricane Irene heading back to the Canadian coast after walloping New England.
Here's where to hurricane force winds are striking today.
This NASA photo taken on Aug. 25 shows the clouds from Hurricane Irene take up 1/3 of the U.S. East Coast.
This water vapor map from August 26 shows the extensive rainfall outlining the hurricane.
This NASA image from August 24 clearly shows the eye of Hurricane Irene.
Officials in Nags Head, N.C. are putting up "No Swimming" flags. It may seem like a no brainer...
Credit: CBS News
...but there are always some idiots who think they can play in a major storm.
It's "Mandatory Evacuation" for residents of Nags Head, N.C.
Here's a view from the International Space Station.
This image from the TRMM satellite on Aug. 23 shows the rain and clouds from Hurricane Irene. Areas in red mark the tops of deep convection towers near the center and in the outer rainbands with tops near 9 miles high (brighter red areas). Also, evident at this time is an area of shallow tops (in blue) near to the center where the drier air had worked its way into the storm.
Credit: SSAI/NASA, Hal Pierce
This infrared image from the AIRS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite shows Hurricane Irene right off the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts on Aug. 26. There is a very large area of strong thunderstorms around the center of circulation and also in a large band of on the northeastern quadrant that appear in purple.
Credit: NASA/JPL, Ed Olsen
Predicted oceanic conditions in the Atlantic are ripe for hurricane formation from August-October this year.
Credit: National Hurricane Center
Here are the predicted sea surface temperatures from August-October which are expected to be higher than normal - creating favorable conditions for hurricanes.
Wetter conditions than normal from West African monsoons, coupled with suppressed convection over the Amazon Basin has led to higher ocean temperatures and an increased likelihood of hurricanes.
This map shows the sea surface temperatures which are above average this year - in fact the third highest since 1981 when records were first kept.. One requirement of a hurricane is that ocean temperatures exceed 26.5°C (79.7°F) and generally when storms will intensify when they hit warmer water and recede when the water gets cooler.
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