The violent hurricane, listed as a Category Two storm, is predicted to sweep through North Carolina on Saturday, before moving north to Washington, New York and Boston.
The eastern seaboard is home to more than 65 million people.
Forecasters are predicting up to 38 centimetres of rain in some places in North Carolina, and a spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center told the AFP news agency that the storm could raise water levels by up to 3.4 metres.
Flooding, storm surges and power outages could also result from the storm.
If Hurricane Irene reacts as predicted, it could produce up to 12 billion dollars in damage, says research director Chuck Watson at Kinetic Analysis in Silver Spring, Maryland.
North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue has ordered all of her state’s citizens off the coast and says that those who choose not to leave are “at the mercy of themselves and the storm.”
The US military has prepared more than 100,000 National Guard soldiers to move into the area if necessary.
Hurricane Irene churns up painful memories for residents on the Gulf Coast, who were victims of Hurricane Katrina, which stranded thousands of people in New Orleans and outlying areas in 2005.