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NASSAU (Reuters) - The United States put its eastern seaboard on alert for Hurricane Irene on Tuesday, as the powerful storm barreled up from the Caribbean on a path that could hit the U.S. coast on the weekend.

Even as the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season pounded the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeast Bahamas with winds, rain and a dangerous storm surge, coastal residents in the Carolinas were preparing for Irene's approach.

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