Earl is now a Category 2 storm
Forecasters say Hurricane Earl has weakened to a Category 2 storm though they warn it is still powerful as it heads toward North Carolina and the Eastern Seaboard.
The National Hurricane Center says Earl's winds are now at about 110 mph (175 kph) and could weaken further.
Still, the coast is expected to be lashed by winds of hurricane strength — more than 74 mph (120 kph) — for a couple of hours.
The first bands of heavy rain hit the long ribbon of the Outer Banks Thursday night. The downpours started in several bursts.
North Carolina is the first and potentially most destructive stop on the storm's projected journey up the Eastern Seaboard.
Hurricane force winds are extending out 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the center of the storm that is 160 miles (260 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras.
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