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Hurricane Earl Bears Down on East Coast; NC Outer Banks Evacuated

The best-case scenario for Hurricane Earl was that it would move out to sea and only affect the eastern seaboard with rip currents and maybe a slight sprinkling of rain. But the storm appears to have pushed enough to the west to now threaten parts of the East Coast with much more than that.

As you can see from the NOAA forecast, North Carolina is now under a hurricane warning for the first time since Earl formed. North of that, Virginia and New Jersey’s coast have tropical storm warnings, and the hurricane itself, while expected to be degraded by that point, is expected to slam almost directly into the Massachusetts cape by Friday night.

Some of the Outer Banks in North Carolina have already begun to evacuate:

The storm is forecast to stay at sea, passing about 80 miles east of Cape Hatteras late Thursday or early Friday. Even at that distance, Earl, now a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of about 125 mph, will be powerful enough to cause a 1- to 2-foot storm surge along the oceanfront early Friday, and send 70- to 80-mph winds across the Outer Banks.

If the storm turns slightly west, coming closer to shore, conditions could get markedly worse. The hurricane warning extends from Emerald Isle north to the Virginia border, including all of the Outer Banks. A tropical storm warning was issued for the coast from Emerald Isle south of the mouth of the Cape Fear River […]

Visitors and some residents are leaving Ocracoke and Hatteras islands today to avoid the possibility of becoming stranded. Dare County emergency officials ordered the evacuation of visitors from both islands this morning.

So far, this has only created world-class surfing on the Atlantic Coast, and the main hazards for the area could be a drop in tourism for the Labor Day Weekend. But any additional move to the west would put more areas along the coast in a stronger danger zone. Puerto Rico didn’t get a direct hit earlier in the week, and 187,000 people still have no electricity.

FEMA, which has response teams throughout the coast, hopefully will do a formidable job during the next couple days.

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David Dayen

David Dayen