Hurricane Irene cut a destructive path through the Caribbean on Monday, raking Puerto Rico with strong winds and rain and then skirting the Dominican Republic on a track that could carry it to the U.S. Southeast as a major storm by the end of the week.

Irene slashed directly across Puerto Rico, tearing up trees and knocking out power to more than a million people, then headed out to sea north of the Dominican Republic.

The first hurricane of the Atlantic season, Irene could grow into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph over the Bahamas on Thursday, The Hurricane Center projected. And it may carry that force northwest along Florida’s Atlantic coast and toward a possible strike on South Carolina, though the forecasters warned that by the weekend, the storm’s path could vary significantly from the current projection.

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