Updated from Thursday, Aug. 25



) -- The governors of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have all declared states of emergency amid growing fear that Hurricane Irene will hit the Tri-state area hard over the weekend.

According to


, both Cape May County, N.J. and Long Beach Island, N.J. have ordered mandatory evacuations with people advised to begin leaving the areas at 8 a.m. EDT on Friday.

Hurricane Irene took a sudden shift westward on Thursday, putting it on a projected path to possibly roll directly over New York City by the end of the weekend.

The storm caught the edge of a large high-pressure system over the Atlantic ocean before noon on Thursday, said a spokesman for the National Weather Service. He added that the hurricane could ride that system to a low pressure trough in North Carolina, which could then whip the storm system north towards New York.

Hurricane Irene continued to strengthen on Thursday.

"This is a very large storm... so its impact will be felt far and wide," NWS Spokesman Chris Vaccaro told


earlier on Thursday. "The storm size will affect a huge area."

The slight shift puts the entire Interstate 95 N.E. Corridor in the impact zone -- which could include anything from heavy storms to high winds to storm surge.

According to the latest update on


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, Hurricane Irene is currently expected to approach the coast of North Carolina on Saturday.

Irene has weakened a bit, according to a forecast from the National Hurricane Center at 5 a.m. on Friday. The storm is packing sustained winds of 110 mph.

A hurricane watch from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Sandy Hook, N.J. -- including Delaware Bay and Chesapeake Bay -- has been changed to a hurricane warning.


New York Stock Exchange



said Thursday they will open as normal on Monday despite the threat of the hurricane.


Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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