Disaster relief organizations prepared to open shelters today and stressed dangers posed by Hurricane Irene, which is crossing eastern North Carolina and is expected to reach Maine as a tropical storm Sunday.

“This is a dangerous storm. It has the potential to do some real damage,” said Dave Thompson, CEO of the American Red Cross in Maine.  Thompson said he expects the storm will knock down trees and leave many Mainers without electricity.

The National Weather Service expects the storm could generate wind gusts up to 60 mph in Maine.

The Red Cross has set up shelters in six towns in Maine and has 200 volunteers on standby to help storm victims, including trained mental health workers. Cities, including Portland, have also set up shelters.

The shelters will have water and food, some donated by local businesses.

Thompson said people can dial phone number 211 to find the location of the shelter closest to them.

A tropical storm preparedness guide can also be downloaded from The National Weather Service’s website http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/#IRENE.

Hurricane Shelters (Dial phone number 211 for an updated list)

Cumberland County

Bridgton Community Center, 15 Depot St.  Will open at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Portland Exposition Building, 239 Park Ave. Will open at 8 p.m. today.

Scarborough High School, 11 Municipal Dr./259 US Route 1. Pet Friendly. Opened at 3 p.m. today.

South Portland Community Center, 21 Nelson Rd. Will open at 8 a.m. Sunday

Westbrook High School, 125 Stroudwater St. Will open at 7 p.m. today

Knox County

Thomaston: Watts Hall, 170 Main St. Will open at noon Sunday

Lincoln County

Wiscasset Community Center, 242 Gardiner Rd.. Pet Friendly. Will open at  noon Sunday

Sagadahoc County

Topsham: Mid Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross, 16 Community Way. Will open at 8 a.m. Sunday

York County

Saco Community Center, 75 Franklin St.. Pet Friendly. Will open at 6 p.m. today

South Berwick, Marshwood High School, 260 Dow Highway. Will open at 6 p.m. today

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