Earl lashes N.C., edges toward Md., Del.
Updated 7:11 a.m.
The first signs of Hurricane Earl were seen early Friday morning in Ocean City. Steady winds whipped through the resort town and waves were about eight to 10 feet high. Strong winds and some light rain are expected to pick up over the next few hours.
Emergency management officials said they expect the storm to be felt most heavily in the town from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the eye of the storm passing about 150 miles off the coast. A hurricane watch and tropical storm warning are still in effect. People will be allowed on the beaches, but not into the water, because of dangerous currents and riptides, Mayor Rick Meehan said.
Forecasters are predicting sustained winds of up to 40 miles per hour, with gusts up to 60 mph. No more than one inch of rain is expected.
Updated, 6:30 a.m.
NAGS HEAD, NC--The eye of Hurricane Earl passed around 90 miles off the coast of North Carolina overnight, pelting this thin strip of barrier islands with high winds and sprays of salt water and gritty sand. Angry white waves stormed the beaches, but only minimal flooding was reported.
In the village of Buxton, which had seen serious flooding during Hurricane Emily in 1993, waves had already reached the top of the beach by nightfall Thursday. Power flickered, but did not go out.
Updated, 6:00 a.m.
Hurricane Earl churned past the North Carolina Outer Banks and its powerful gusts and driving rains were starting to be felt in southeastern Virginia early Friday, the beginning of at least 24 hours of stormy, windy weather along the East Coast.
Residents and officials of North Carolina's barrier islands were waiting for daybreak to see how much damage the storm's winds and waves had left behind. But National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Collins said Earl had produced little storm surge and only minor flooding in some coastal counties. Predictions of storm surges between 2 and 4 feet may be too much, he said.
In Nags Heads, with the eye the closest it was expected to get to the North Carolina coast, the rain lashed against window panes and the wind kicked up. At about 2 a.m., the tops of small trees were bending in the howling gusts and beach grass was whipping back and forth on dunes leading to the ocean. A couple hundred power outages were reported.
During its march up the Atlantic, it could snarl travelers' Labor Day weekend plans with several flights already canceled. Forecasters said that a kink in the jetstream over the eastern U.S. should push the storm away from the coast, guiding it like a marble in a groove. Earl is expected to move north-northeast for much of Friday, staying away from New Jersey and the other mid-Atlantic states, but also passing very close to Long Island, Cape Cod and Nantucket, which could get gusts up to 100 mph.
The most likely place Earl will make landfall is on Saturday in western Nova Scotia, Canada, where it could still be a hurricane, said hurricane center deputy director Ed Rappaport.
Governors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island declared states of emergency, joining North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.
“This is the strongest hurricane to threaten the Northeast and New England since Hurricane Bob in 1991,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center.
Updated, 5:00 a.m.
Hurricane Earl will be moving away from the Outer Banks today, heading for New England tonight. Though it will weaken in strength, the National Hurricane Center is still warning it will be a strong hurricane as it approaches New England.
A 5 a.m. public advisory said hurricane warnings have been discontinued for South of Cape Lookout, NC and for the western portion of Ablemarle Sound. The hurricane watch has been discontinued north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Henlopen, Delaware.
The hurricane is moving at 18 mph with maximum sustained winds near 105 mph. There could be a dangerous rise in the water levels by as much as two to four feet in North Carolina and in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
Hurricane conditions may occur in the Outer Banks during the next few hours. Tropical-storm-force winds will likely reach the coast of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and up into Massachusetts later today. It will likely spread over the coast of Maine tonight.
Updated, 4:45 a.m.
There are reports of power outages in North Carolina and in Virginia. Highway 12 in Frisco, NC is under eight inches of water and is closed in both directions at the Oregon Inlet Bridge. The Weather Channel reports as much as two feet of water in Hatteras Village and some flooding in Kill Devil Hills.
Updated, 4:15 a.m.
For anyone wishing they could experience Hurricane Earl firsthand, tune into Weather Warrior TV, where Jason Foster is driving around the Outer Banks streaming video live onto his site. Foster has been a storm chaser since 1997, according to his web site. It's hypnotic following him around town to the ceaseless sound of the rain as he watches the ocean churn, quotes Seinfeld and notes which neighbors forgot to turn off their sprinklers despite the downpour.
Updated, 3:45 a.m.
Hurricane Earl's powerful gusts and driving rains are churning over the Outer Banks of North Carolina and starting to be felt in southeastern Virginia.
National Weather Service meterologist Jeremy Schulz said early Friday morning that rain bands stretched about 140 miles inland in North Carolina and up to the southern tip of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.
Sustained winds of about 30 mph were whipping the North Carolina coast. The U.S. Coast Guard station at Hatteras reported a gust of 67 mph just before midnight.
One portion of N.C. Highway 12 in Rodanthe was closed because of ocean overwash. Local officials hoped to have it clear by daybreak.
Earl had weakened Thursday but even its edges were packing powerful winds as it heads up the Eastern Seaboard Friday.
Updated, 2:00 a.m.
The National Hurricane Center issued a new release, but no changes have been made to the previously announced warnings.
Bogue Inlet, NC to the North Carolina/Virgina border
Cape Code, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island
North of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Henlopen, Delaware
Nova Scotia from Medway Harbour to Digby.
Tropical storm warning:
Surf city, NC to west of Bogue Inlet, NC,
North of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Sandy Hook, NJ
The coast of Long Island, NY
New Haven, CT to west of Westport, Mass.
North of Hull, Mass. to the Merrimack River
Stonington, Maine eastward to Eastport, Maine
Tropical storm watch:
North of the Merrimack River to west of Stonington, Maine
New Brunswick from the U.S./Canada border eastward to Fort Lawrence
Nova Scotia from Fort Lawrence southwestward to Digby
Prince Edward Island
Updated, 1:45 a.m.
The Weather Channel reports 74 mph wind at the top of Bonner Bridge along the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
WTKR News Channel 3 meteorologist Patrick Rockey said that North Carolina Highway 12 has been closed near the Bonner Bridge because of overwash.
Updated, 1:00 a.m.
Forecasters say Hurricane Earl has produced little storm surge and only minor flooding in some coastal counties in North Carolina.
National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Collins said early Friday that predictions of storm surges between 2 and 4 feet may be generous and that there has been very little to report in the way of flooding.
However, the center of the hurricane was still moving closer to the coast, expected to pass some 100 miles east of the Outer Banks around 2 a.m.
The National Weather Service forecast that waves of up to 18 feet would smash into the coast early Friday.
Coupled with an expected storm surge of about 4 feet in some places, the weather service said the waves could lead to some beach erosion and roadway overwash on the Outer Banks.
Updated, 12:40 a.m.
The Weather Channel reports winds 64 miles per hour gusts measured at Nags Head, NC.
AccuWeather says that 30 to 40 feet of sand has eroded from Folly Beach County Park in South Carolina from the battering surf from Hurricane Earl.
Updated, 12:25 a.m.
The hurricane's squalls began to lash the long ribbon of barrier islands of North Carolina Thursday night. Gusts above 40 mph made signs shake and the heavy rain fall sideways in Buxton, the southeasternmost tip of the Outer Banks. Forecasters warned that despite the downgrade to a category 2 hurricane, Earl remained powerful, with hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or more extending 70 miles from its center and tropical storm-force winds of at least 35 mph reaching more than 200 miles out.
National Weather Service meteorologist Hal Austin said the eye of the hurricane was expected to get as close as 55 miles east of the Outer Banks about 2 a.m. Friday. The coast is expected to be lashed by hurricane-force winds for a couple of hours with a storm surge of up to 5 feet and waves 18 feet high.
“It's spitting rain. It's probably going to get a little hairy. We're prepared for it. My biggest concern is the ocean, not the wind,” said Karen Denson Miller, who decided to stay on Hatteras Island with friends.
Updated, 11:45 p.m.
The National Hurricane Center released a public advisory warning that despite the downgrade in Hurricane Earl's category on the Saffir-Simpson scale, it is still considered a dangerous and large hurricane. It will weaken over the next 24 to 36 hours as it passes by the Outer Banks and into the lower reaches of New England. The winds have dropped to about 105 miles per hour.
The tropical storm warning has been discontinued from Cape Fear, NC to west of Surf City, NC.
Updated, 10:00 p.m.
Hurricane Earl continued barreling toward the North Carolina coast, but it had slowed down considerably by 8 p.m. Thursday evening. Earl's winds had weakened from 140 to 110 miles per hour, downgrading it to a Category 2 hurricane.
Officials warned that the downgraded storm could still cause considerable damage, but hopes were rising that the effects of Hurricane Earl would not be as severe on the ocean-front community as first feared.
In Nags Head, N.C., many residents continued to patrol the beaches as the sun went down Thursday evening. Some children even dared to wade in the choppy water.
By 10 p.m., the wind and rain had increased noticeably and the National Hurricane Center warned of water surges between two to five feet for the most exposed parts of the Outer Banks. Local authorities also warned those remaining after the compulsory evacuation in Nags Head that they were at risk of losing water supply and power as the storm approached.
--Michael W. Savage reporting from Nags Head, N.C.
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