As of 11 p.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center has a hurricane watch in effect up to Sandy Hook, N.J. A hurricane warning is in effect up to the North Carolina-Virginia border.
Irene is currently a Category 3 storm, packing 115 mph winds as it leaves the Bahamas and hugs the Florida coast on a northern track.
The five-day forecast places the storm track squarely through Long Island, with much of the East Coast in the forecast cone. At the current estimate, Irene could make landfall on Long Island at some point Sunday.
According to NOAA models, Long Island faces up to a 70-percent probability of seeing tropical storm-force winds up to 74 mph. The model also shows the Island has a 20-percent chance of facing hurricane force winds. Both models have been revised significantly upward from the early afternoon update.
In declaring a state of emergency, Cuomo said the move allows for the staging and coordination of various agencies, from the Office of Emergency Management to State Police, Department of Transportation, New York Power Authority and LIPA, among others.
"In this emergency I am activating all levels of state government to prepare for any situation that may be caused by Hurricane Irene," Cuomo said in a statement. "We are communicating with our federal and local partners to track the storm and to plan a coordinated response, and we will deploy resources as needed to the areas expected to be hit the hardest. I urge New Yorkers to personally prepare for hurricane conditions and to cooperate with emergency officials if needed. By working together, we will all be able to face this storm in a calm and organized manner."