Hurricane Isabel, which had reached wind speeds high enough to make it a category 5 hurricane, could hit the northern Virginia or aryland coast this Thursday or Friday as a category 3 hurricane, according to reports from the National Hurricane Center.

“It is forecast to make landfall somewhere from North Carolina northward to the Mid-Atlantic area, somewhere around New Jersey. The actual forecast track has it coming in the afternoon hours on Thursday, moving into the outer banks of North Carolina as a category 3 hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said yesterday evening.

The hurricane has twice broken the category 5 threshold of 156 mph, the strongest designation for a hurricane, but forecasters have said the storm could become gradually weaker before it makes landfall.

“We feel pretty confident that someone will [get hit],” Eric Blake, a specialist at the hurricane center, told Reuters. “We’re forecasting a major hurricane for the United States East Coast.”

Flooding on the Potomac, as a result of the hurricane, could cause damage in the Washington, D.C., area. Emergency officials have been gathering sandbags and have been meeting with other critical service leaders, according to NBC News.

It is a category 3 hurricane down from a category 5 hurricane a few days ago

The last category 5 hurricane to hit the United States was Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The storm, the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history, caused $26.5 billion in damage, killing 43 people in Louisiana and Florida. Hurricane Mitch was the last category 5 hurricane to hit land, killing over 11,000 people in Central America in 1998, according to the Associated Press.

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