Forecast and timeframe of activity
Hurricane Tracking Center with Tweets from NHC
Live updates: Follow the storm all day
Tropical Storm Warning for most of D.C. metro area
Flash Flood watch for most of D.C. metro area
Tornado Watch until 8 p.m. Calvert, St Marys (and bay)
Hurricane Warning for Va/Md/De beaches | Storm surge/wave info
Irene: Are You Prepared?
Live webcams of East Coast beaches

Conditions elsewhere: ~650,000 without power in NC
Power outages growing: Dominian Electric | PEPCO | BG&E

3:55 p.m. update: There’s no mistaking that Irene is getting closer. Winds have increased to about 20-25+ mph sustained across the area with some gusts between 30 and 40 mph. At the same time, heavy rain bands continue to rotate across much of the area. Even more intense activity is located to the southeast (where significant tree damage and power outages are impacting places like Richmond). Things could start getting considerably uglier around here soon. Finalize any outdoor activities and prepare for a long evening. A detailed look at what to expect will follow in a new post shortly.

3:10 p.m. update: More than 260,000 homes and businesses are already without power across Maryland and Virginia, most in southeast Virginia and near Richmond. Wind gusts as high as 50-70 mph have been reported around Richmond and toward the shore. Some of that heavier wind maximum will head toward the area over the next several hours.

Radar estimated rain through 2:30 p.m. ranging from near nothing well north and west to several inches well south and east.

Even before the brunt, local EMS offices are reporting increased calls with power lines already coming down and water leaking into structures.

1:40 p.m. update: A Post reporter notes that wind speeds are approaching 30 mph near the Bay Bridge. Vehicle bans for house trailers, motorcycles and others affected by strong winds begin at 30 mph. The bridge will close if winds reach 60 mph.

1:00 p.m. update: A Flash Flood Warning is in effect for Calvert and St. Marys counties until 6:45 p.m. 1-3” of rain has already fallen there and more is to come.

12:15 p.m.: After making landfall early this morning, Hurricane Irene is pressing slowly northward with sustained winds of 85 mph. Rain bands associated with the storm are now into much of the area from near D.C. and to the south and east and they will continue to increase in coverage and intensity. If you’re not getting anything yet further to the northwest, you should in the next few hours.

Irene is expected to make its closest pass this evening and toward midnight. That means both rain and wind will pick up markedly across the area later today. At its peak, rainfall up to or past 1” per hour is possible in the heaviest bands along with strong winds. As the ground continues to saturate, falling trees may become a greater concern.

If you’re not content to sit inside all day, please try to take care of any plans before dark as conditions after dark may become at least slightly dangerous due to the combination of heavy rain, a flash flood risk, and of course increasing wind.

Those winds are thus far not a big issue in the area, but this will continue to change as the storm center approaches. Winds now in the range of 10 to 20 mph (gusts to around 30 mph) should steadily increase before making more of a jump toward or past 40 mph heading into and through the evening.

For more details on expected rain totals and wind speeds, see our forecast from earlier. We’ll continue to keep you updated both here and on Twitter and Facebook.

Continue reading for a poll on how much rain we’ll see as well as some impacts so far further to the south.

Preparations at the Washington waterfront. By CWG’s Steve Tracton.

...Last updated at 2:45 p.m...

At least two deaths have been attributed to the storm in North Carolina. Additionally, around 650,000 people (and undoubtedly growing) are now without power in that state. At least one fatality has been confirmed in Virginia when a tree fell on a child. The most significant Impacts in Virginia and to the north are just getting underway.

The Chicago Weather Examiner reported some top wind gusts observed in North Carolina with Irene, several have been quite intense: “Cedar Island 115, Atlantic Beach 101, James City 86, New Bern 84, Duck 84, Nags Head 83, Newport 74”.

Several tornado watches have been issued since Irene made landfall. One is currently in effect from New Jersey into coastal NC . A few tornadoes were confirmed last night and additional are possible. Reports of one near Rehoboth came in earlier.

An estimated 8,300 flights have been canceled because of Irene. And, in New York City, the massive shutdown is underway with all airports and transit closed down as of noon. Rain is just arriving there too and the worst of Irene wont arrive till late tonight into tomorrow up there.