Hurricane Earl could take aim at Carolinas by Friday
08/30/2010. After dealing a glancing blow to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Hurricane Earl was heading back out into the open Atlantic Tuesday, but forecasters warned the large and dangerous storm could have the Carolinas in its sights later this week.
Earl quickly developed into a Category 4 storm on Monday, packing winds of 135 mph (215 kph). It also grew large, with hurricane-force winds stretching 70 miles (110 km) from its center and tropical storm-force winds extending outward some 200 miles (325 kilometers).
"Some fluctuations in intensity are likely, but Earl is forecast to retain Category 4 status for the next day or two," the National Hurricane Center said.
As of 11 a.m. ET, the center of Earl was about 205 miles (335 kilometers) east of Grand Turk Island and about 1,070 miles (1,725 kilometers) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, according to the hurricane center. It was heading west-northwest at about 14 mph (22 kph).
A tropical storm warning remained in effect for the Turks and Caicos islands, and a tropical storm watch was in effect for the southeastern Bahamas. Those areas could experience above-normal tides, along with "large and dangerous battering waves" on Tuesday, forecasters said.
Earl could dump between 1 and 3 inches of rain on the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas, with up to 6 inches possible in some areas, the Hurricane Center said.
But forecasters said conditions on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, including gusty winds, were expected to improve as Earl departed, and storm surge flooding and waves will diminish.
See Earl's impact on Culebra, Puerto Rico
"We were quite fortunate because there was no direct hit in this case," Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno told CNN's "American Morning." But, he said, the island experienced "lots of rain" and some high winds. As of Tuesday morning, 174,000 customers were without power, he said, and 33,000 lacked water service.
"There are some roads that are blocked because trees have fallen," Fortuno said. "Those are being removed as we speak, and hopefully we'll be able to get back to normal during the course of the day and tomorrow will be a regular working day."
A CNN iReport showed sheets of torrential rain on the island, along with gusty winds.
Residents were being asked to stay home so that downed trees and power lines could be removed, Fortuno said.
Meanwhile, Earl's forecast track has shifted westward, Marciano said. Tracking maps show Earl nearing the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 3 hurricane early Friday before approaching Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as a Category 2 storm on Saturday.
"Interests from the Carolinas northward to New England should monitor the progress of Earl," the Hurricane Center said Tuesday.
However, hurricanes do not have to make landfall to affect coastlines. They can trigger dangerous rip currents -- a narrow channel of water that flows seaward from beaches. The currents can be strong enough to carry even experienced swimmers into deeper water.
On Tuesday, a National Weather Service coastal advisory was in effect for the eastern coast of Florida, mostly due to Earl's presence in the Caribbean. The advisory warned that dangerous rip currents and rough surf are possible. "Dozens of rescues along with one surf-related fatality were reported over the past few days in very hazardous ocean conditions," the advisory said.
Over the weekend, hundreds of rescues took place in Maryland and elsewhere because of rip currents spawned by then-Hurricane Danielle, which stayed well offshore. Danielle has since lost its tropical characteristics and moved out into the open Atlantic.
Earl was expected to turn toward the northwest and continue that motion through Wednesday. The storm is forecast to cross east of the Turks and Caicos later Tuesday and Tuesday evening. The islands will begin experiencing tropical storm conditions Tuesday afternoon, forecasters said.
However, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands could see an additional 1 to 2 inches of rain as Earl pulls away. "Isolated maximum storm total amounts of 12 inches are possible in association with Earl," the Hurricane Center said.
On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency urged residents to prepare for severe weather. FEMA said the public can visit the website Ready.gov to learn how to prepare for a hurricane. Tips include developing a family communications plan, putting together a kit with 72 hours of food and water and staying informed of risks in the area.
The agency planned a conference call Tuesday with reporters on Earl.
Another storm could be poised to deliver a one-two punch to Puerto Rico and other areas of the Caribbean. Tropical Storm Fiona developed on Monday and appeared to be following in Earl's footsteps.
It remained a weak tropical storm as of Tuesday, the Hurricane Center said. However, it was enough to prompt a tropical storm warning for St. Martin and St. Barthelemy and a tropical storm watch for Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions, including winds of at least 39 mph, are forecast within 36 hours. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.
"Interests elsewhere in the northern Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of Fiona," forecasters said. "Additional watches or warnings may be required for a portion of the area later this morning."
As of 11 a.m, the center of Fiona was located about 440 miles (705 kilometers) east of the Leeward Islands. It had winds of about 40 mph (65 kph) and was moving west-northwest at about 24 mph (39 kph). Some slow strengthening is possible over the next day or two, forecasters said.
"We are following what the National Weather Service is telling us" on Fiona, Fortuno told CNN. "They're telling us that it is not as organized as Earl. However, it could bring about some rain, and that's what concerns me. So we'll just keep a very close eye on it and see what happens."