Watch: NASA Cameras Catch Irene’s Might from 230 Miles Above

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Astronauts say the hurricane looks “scary” even from space. Just imagine the punch she’ll pack on the ground.

The high fliers at the International Space Station trained their cameras on the “terrifying” weather system as they orbited over it Wednesday afternoon. From 230 miles above Earth, Hurricane Irene can be seen swirling over the Caribbean, slamming the Bahamas with her Category 3 winds. The hurricane spans about 580 miles wide.

(PHOTOS: East Coast Battens Down Before Irene)

Passing over the Bahamas, Irene caused major damage to the nation’s outer islands. By some reports, 90% of the homes on some of the sparsely populated islands of Acklins and Crooked Islands were destroyed as Irene’s eye swirled directly overhead.

As of early Friday, Hurricane Irene began battering North Carolina with strong winds and rain. The outer bands of the storm are just reaching the Carolinas as she moves north at 14 mph. But perhaps the worst is yet to come – the eye of the storm sits 330 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, slowly encroaching on the Outer Banks. North Carolina is bracing for winds of 100 to 130 miles per hour on Saturday, while the northeast has been warned of an “extreme” threat of hurricane-force winds and rain – and all the weather-related flooding and storm surge that tags along – for Saturday night into Sunday.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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