September 1 – As Hurricane Earl spins about 700 miles southeast off the coast of South Carolina, some residents and tourists along the eastern seaboard have begun fleeing the on-coming storm. Officials have ordered the first mandatory evacuation orders along the barrier islands of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.
Additionally, the National Hurricane Center on Wednesday issued a warning for the coast of North Carolina and Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia has declared a state of emergency in preparation for the storm.
In a scene eerily reminiscent to Hurricane Katrina, many residents and tourists in the path of the storm have refused to evacuate the area, instead hoping to just wait the storm out. Compounding the dangerous situation is the fact that many of the barrier island communities are only accessible via ferry. However, once the wind reaches 50 mph, the ferries stop running. While ferry service is currently running at all times, many of the residents and Labor Day tourists are deciding not to leave.
With sustained winds of 125 mph, Hurricane Earl was downgraded from a Category 4 to a Category 3 hurricane. However, the sheer size of the storm is causing alarm with officials. Effects of the storm are expected to be felt far and wide. Hurricane force winds will be felt 90 miles from the eye, and tropical storm force winds will be felt for up to 200 miles from the eye of the storm.
Last night, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ocean buoy recorded a 50 foot heigh wave.
With seas expected to become even more turbulent, the Baltimore Port stated that is operating at a “heightened condition of readiness prior to arrival of potential gale-force winds associated with Earl.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia is on alert, however, they the base has determined that the threat to the naval ships docked in the port will be minimal. As a result, the Navy has ordered nearby ships, including the USS Cole, to return to port to wait out the storm. If the Navy was more concerned about the hurricane, they would send ships out into deep waters instead of keeping them at the docks.
Forecasters are predicting that while Earl is likely to avoid making direct landfall, the destructive winds and currents are sure to strike the coast hard. Looking a few days forward, forecasts are calling for Earl to head northwest along the coast, perhaps striking Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the coast of Maine and Nova Scotia on Friday night and Saturday as a Category 1 hurricane.
With the storm moving north up the Atlantic coast, and sending ocean swells in that direction, another group of people are gearing up for the storm– surfers. South facing beaches around the New York area, including Rockaway Beach in Queens, are expected to see substantially elevated wave heights. With scorching heats in the region, surfers have begun flocking to the beaches to catch what could be a great set of waves from the storm swell.
In the meantime, two additional storms behind Earl are lining up along the hurricane storm track. Tropical Depression Nine officially formed today in the eastern Atlantic. Tropical Depression Nine has a maximum sustained wind speed of 35 mph and is heading west at 15 mph. It is anticipated that this tropical depression will become Tropical Storm Gaston within the next two days.
Closer to the U.S., Tropical Storm Fiona continues to strengthen as it heads towards the northern Leeward Islands. Tropical Storm Fiona has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and is expected to strengthen over the next day. However, Fiona is forecast to weaken on Friday and will hopefully be less cause for alarm.