MIAMI (AP) -- Forecasters say Hurricane Irene has slowed just a bit but is still expected to rev up again when it takes aim at the East Coast and could become a Category 4 monster by Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center early Thursday said Irene is approaching the northwestern Bahamas as a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds at 115 mph (185 kph).
Forecasters say those fluctuations are normal but that winds will ramp up quickly over the next day.
Hurricane and tropical storm watches will likely be issued for parts of the Carolinas later Thursday. The storm was about 750 miles (1,225 kilometers) south of Cape Hatteras, N.C.
Winds in Category 4 storms are at least 131 mph (210 kph).