The center of Hurricane Isabel has begun moving over coastal areas of North Carolina, bringing 120 kilometer an hour winds and high seas to the region. Isabel's impact is expected to be felt along much of the East Coast of the United States.

Forecasters say Isabel will bring high winds and heavy flooding to a region stretching from the states of North Carolina to Pennsylvania and New York.

A major concern is storm surges as high as three meters above normal tide levels, which forecasters say will not only cause coastal flooding, but also push inland rivers well above flood stage.

Navy Lieutenant Dave Roberts, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says even though Isabel has weakened over the past several days it could cause considerable damage.

"Well in the past, systems of this intensity and possibly slightly stronger flooding, has been the issue," he said. "But, of course you know the hurricane force winds of relatively large diameter you are going to see quite a bit of damage along the coastal regions until it starts to diminish."

Hurricane Isabel maintained its intensity as it moved ashore, and Lieutenant Roberts says it will be some time before the storm weakens significantly.

"Once the stronger winds do move on shore, we should see a weakening trend. So, probably in the next 24 hours, we will see a significant weakening trend," he said.

Isabel is the strongest hurricane to strike the East Coast of the United States since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. That storm, which was similar to Isabel in size and strength killed 56 people and caused more than $4 billion in damage.