GFS model projection showing Irene south of Long Island Sunday afternoon. A storm in this position would cause large economic damages. This is just one of many simulations and the track error may be as large as 200 miles. (StormVistaWxModels.com)

We can reach that conclusion using a tool called the ICAT Damage Estimator, an interactive online tool that provides normalized U.S. hurricane losses. Here’s what the tool tells us about past storms that passed within 50 miles of Irene’s current position and made landfall in the U.S.:

Average damage: ~$12.4 billion

Median damage: ~$4.8 billion

You can experiment with tool at the ICAT website

Of course, if Irene takes a hook wide right and just grazes the coastline, the U.S. would likely be spared such an economic toll. But a storm hugging the coast from the Outer Banks to southern New England is unlikely to.