Hurricane Irene may already be losing its hurricane status. The storm is losing power as it moves across North Carolina, and local wind data show a much less powerful hurricane than predicted. According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale a Category 1 Hurricane has sustained winds of 74-95. But local data from weather stations reporting on The Weather Underground show much lower wind speeds. At 1530 EDT the highest reading in the area being affected by Irene was 55 mph at Duck Pier, NC. Most of the surrounding stations reports winds at 30-40 mph. There may be higher wind speeds closer to the storm center, and powerful gusts of wind have been reported in the area, but the sustained readings on the WU map are more in line with what is expected from a tropical storm (39-73 mph) or tropical depression (38 mph and below).
The storm is still dangerous — it has already taken four lives, and flooding, tidal surges, downed trees and other threats remain — but thankfully Irene is so far not turning out to be the hurricane of the century, if she is even still a hurricane at all.
UPDATE #1: At 1600 EDT wind speed at Duck Pier had increased to 61 mph.
UPDATE #2: at 1630 EDT wind speed at Duck Pier had decreased to 60 mph. The center of the storm was very close at that point.