reports there is potential for the worst hurricane impacts in 50 years along the northern part of the Atlantic Seaboard as Irene plows northward.

The impacts on lives, property, commerce and travel will be serious.

While Irene is not forecast to track as far west, nor as fast, as Hazel did in 1954, it will ride up along the mid-Atlantic coast in such a way as to inflict major damage in many coastal and some inland communities.

In today's dollars, Hazel was a multi-billion-dollar storm and reached Category 4 at peak intensity.

Irene will track farther east than Hazel, and farther west than Bob (1991). Meteorologist Heather Buchman compares Irene to storms in the past.

While Irene is expected to weaken Saturday into Sunday after encountering cooler waters in northern latitudes, that will not happen fast enough to prevent serious problems from wind, rain and ocean water.

If you live near the projected path of Irene, you are at risk for power outages, flooding problems and property damage with this storm.

Downed trees alone have potential to block many streets and secondary roads from eastern North Carolina northward to southeastern Quebec, running along the very heavily populated I-95 Northeast U.S. corridor.

With saturated soil, water-logged, heavy trees will topple and break, as will tree limbs. When trees come down, they take power lines with them. There could be millions in the dark for hours and hundreds of thousands without power for days starting at the height of Irene, and in her wake.

Some people could be without tap water as a result of the power being out.

Irene will bring serious flooding from heavy rain in the coastal mid-Atlantic and portions of New England. It is not a question, not a risk; it is a certainty.

Many areas in the Northeast have been hit with record or near-record rainfall for the month of August, and a few are flirting with their wettest month ever. Rain from thunderstorms in advance of Irene will make matters worse.

The saturated state of the ground will mean that water has nowhere to go but into yards, streets, streams and rivers.