Irene, the ninth named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, was expected to pass over Puerto Rico overnight and could strengthen into a hurricane as it approached the Dominican Republic on Monday, forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
It would be the first hurricane of the busy -- but so far not destructive -- 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.
At 5 p.m. (2100 GMT), Irene had top winds of 50 miles per hour and was near the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix, about 120 miles east-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Irene was a large storm and moving west-northwest.
This morning the NHC upgraded Irene to a category 1 hurricane and expected to strengthen more over the next 48 hours. The current projections have Irene grazing the eastern side of Cuba Wednesday and Thursday and hit the eastern coast of Florida on Friday.