WOODBURY - Storm preparations are under way in Florida and North Carolina as emergency officials closely monitor Hurricane Irene, which has been gaining strength on its approach toward the U.S. coast.

Irene is the first hurricane to seriously threaten the U.S. in three years. The Category 2 storm has already cut a destructive path through the Caribbean.

Forecasters say it could grow to a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 135 miles per hour. On Long Island, the effects of the storm could be felt toward the end of the week.