Hurricane Irene -- packing winds well over 100 mph as it raked the Bahamas and Puerto Rico -- remains on course this morning to hit the Atlantic coast in North Carolina and move up the coast through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

But before the potential hurricane threat, southwestern Connecticut today faces the possibility of showers and thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight. Some of those storms could be severe, with heavy rain and strong winds. Otherwise, the day will be cloudy with a daytime high temperature in the upper-70s.

Tonight could also be stormy, the NWS warns, with the greatest threat before 11 p.m.

Tomorrow is expected to be a sunny prelude before the larger weather threat posed by Hurricane Irene, as skies turn sunny with a high temperature near 82 degrees.

Overnight, there is a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 a.m.

On Saturday, there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 7 a.m. It will be cloudy, with a high near 77.

By Saturday, the chance of precipitation -- with downpours possible -- is 90 percent, the NWS says.

On Sunday, the leading edge of Hurricane Irene could trigger tropical storm conditions in the region. Showers and possibly thunderstorms are likely if the storm keeps moving on its present course -- but the NWS warns the hurricane's track and timing remain uncertain as it weakened somewhat after moving past the Bahamas.

If Irene does stay on its current course, its most severe impact could be felt along the southern New England coast on Sunday and Monday.