Satellite image of Hurricane Irene at 10:30 p.m. Thursday (NOAA)

* Hurricane and tropical storm watches for mid-Atlantic region, including Washington, D.C. *

After its intensity held steady for about a day, Irene is deepening as it pulls away from the northwest Bahamas, on a collision course with the North Carolina Outer Banks. Although its maximum sustained winds of 115 have not (yet) increased, its central pressure has dropped (to 942 mb). Typically, a drop in pressure is followed by an increase in wind speed.

Irene’s satellite presentation, shown above, has improved. The eye has become better defined and the storm’s outflow appears healthy on all sides. What’s striking about its appearance is the sheer size of the storm. Tropical storm force winds extend 290 miles from the center, and hurricane force winds extend 80 miles from the center.

Currently positioned 490 miles south, southwest of Cape Hatteras, track models are more or less unified in a landfall along the North Carolina Outer Banks Friday night into early Saturday followed by a track up the East Coast. The National Hurricane Center did not revise its track in its 11 p.m. update. As such, our thinking for impacts in the mid-Atlantic has not shifted from earlier today.

Stay tuned for detailed coverage during the day tomorrow...

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