Powerful Hurricane Earl Headed Our Way
Hurricane Earl is expected to be an intense Category 4 hurricane when it makes its closest approach to the North Carolina coast early tomorrow morning. The current forecast predicts that Earl's strongest winds will exceed 140 mph around 2 a.m. Friday when the storm's eye is about 40 miles east-southeast of Buxton, a village at Cape Hatteras. At that point, Hurricane Earl will be about 115 miles east-southeast of Plymouth, North Carolina, where Jane and I live.
If Earl maintains this intensity, it'll be among the strongest hurricanes north of the 35th parallel, which falls roughly halfway between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras. Hurricanes draw their strength from warm ocean waters, and the water temperatures usually aren't warm enough to sustain the storms this far north. But ocean temperatures off the coast of the Southeast are well above normal this year, and there's plenty of fuel to keep Earl stoked as it moves northward.
As I'm writing this, I just got an email alert saying that a hurricane watch has been issued for portions of the Massachusetts coast. A hurricane watch means that hurricane-force winds -- that is, winds of at least 74 mph -- are possible within the watch area.
By contrast, a hurricane warning has been issued for the North Carolina coast. A hurricane warning means that hurricane-force winds are expected within the warning area.
I'm going to try an experiment in live-blogging as Hurricane Earl approaches North Carolina. The storm is expected to be offshore and due east of Savannah, Georgia around 2 p.m. today. I'll start a new post then and make updates as Earl gets closer. Please check back.
NOTE: The graphic at the top of this post is from the website Weather Underground.