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In this handout GOES satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Irene reaches hurricane strength as it moves across Puerto Rico towards Hispaniola August 22, 2011.
South Florida officials are urging residents to be prepared as Hurricane Irene hurtles on a track that could bring it near the eastern coast of the Sunshine State.
Irene was a Category One Hurricane with winds of 80 mph Monday, but was expected to strengthen to a Category Three and approaching South Florida either Thursday or Friday.
In Miami-Dade, Commissioner Joe Martinez issued a letter telling residents to "prepare for the worst and hope for the best."
While we are in no immediate danger from Hurricane Irene, our Department of Emergency Management (DEM) continues to closely monitor her movements," Martinez wrote. "At this time, all Miami-Dade County services continue normal operations. I urge you to be prepared! Check your hurricane preparedness kits, review your emergency plans and remain informed."
Martinez said residents should make sure emergency equipment, like hurricane shutters and battery-powered radios, are in working order, and supplies like non-perishable food and water should be stocked up.
Officials in Broward urged similar precautions and said they're actively preparing for Irene.
"We have everybody in our office working on Irene, we set aside all other work to focus 100 percent of our time on Irene," said Chuck Lanza, Director of Emergency Management Division of Broward County.
Lanza said they're monitoring the forecast before they pull the trigger on measures like school closures or coordinating evacuations, but they'll be calling Broward's disabled and special needs residents to discuss the plans for evacuating them if need be.
In the Florida Keys, Monroe County officials urged boaters to remain in port beginning Wednesday afternoon, with waves as high as 14 feet possible.
No significant impacts are expected for the Keys under the current forecast, said Jon Rizzo, with the Key West National Weather Service Office, though there was a 40 to 50 percent chance for tropical storm force winds in the Upper and Middle Keys Thursday.
The Monroe County Emergency Management office said it had no plans for immediate protective action but would closely monitor the storm and be prepared to take any appropriate actions.
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