New model runs show a shift west and a much greater likelihood of landfall in the state with tropical storm force winds farther inland. Irene is a Category 3 storm and is intensifying.

Gov. Bev Perdue declared a State of Emergency this morning for Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Harnett, Hertford, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson counties.

A Hurricane Watch is now in effect for the entire North Carolina coast north of Surf City.

NHC warnings and watches

Via Jeff Masters:

We’ve all been watching the computer models, which have been steadily moving their forecast tracks for Irene more to the east—first into Florida, then Georgia, then South Carolina, then North Carolina, then offshore of North Carolina—and it seemed that this storm would do what so many many storms have done in the past, brush the Outer Banks of North Carolina, then head out to sea. Irene will not do that. Irene will likely hit Eastern North Carolina, but the storm is going northwards after that, and may deliver an extremely destructive blow to the mid-Atlantic and New England states. I am most concerned about the storm surge danger to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and the rest of the New England coast.

Cross-posted from Ross’s Almanac