Category 4 Earl Approaches the East Coast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:49 AM GMT on September 02, 2010

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Hi, Dr. Rob Carver with your evening blog update. It's a busy night in the tropics with category 4 Hurricane Earl and Tropical Storms Fiona and Gaston in the Atlantic. We'll focus on Earl tonight.

Earl
As of 11PM EDT, Earl is a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140 mph and faster gusts. From the advisory, Earl is located at 27.8 N, 73.8 W, 520 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, NC. On average, Earl is currently moving north-northwest at 18 mph. Data from hurricane hunter flights show that Earl's pressure has fallen, the minimum central pressure is now 932 mb. Looking at Figure 1, an estimate of rainfall rates (think radar in space), we see a complete eyewall, with an especiallly vigorous thunderstorm cluster in the northwest quadrant. These


Fig. 1 Estimated rainfall-rate of Earl taken at 9PM EDT 1 September 2010. Image courtesy of the Naval Research Lab

Earl is still a large storm. Hurricane force winds extend 90 miles from the storm center and tropical storm force winds can be found 230 miles away. 12 foot seas extend at least 210 nmi from the center in all directions and may reach out to 450 nmi in the northeast quadrant of the storm. The most recent estimate (930PM EDT) of Earl's integrated kinetic energy is 91 TJ, with a wind impact of 3.1 out of 6 and a storm surge impact of 4.7 out of 6. Like Dr. Masters said earlier today, if the right front quadrant of Earl stays out to sea, the storm surge may not be as significant as this rating indicates.

Track Forecast
NHC has not really altered their track forecast for this update. Thanks to the subtropical high, Earl will continue turning toward the north as it moves around the subtropical high. When the trough in the jet stream comes out on Thursday, Earl will accelerate quickly to the northeast. The timing of the trough's arrival will determine Earl's impact on the East Coast. If the trough comes out quickly, Earl will stay at sea. If the trough is late in arriving, it could move Earl across the East Coast.

That said, the current forecast still holds that Earl's center will stay out to sea, but with Earl's center passing near the Outer Banks late Thursday night, then passing the Delmarva peninsula Friday morning before flying past Cape Cod Friday night and crossing over Canada's Nova Scotia Saturday. There is also a small possibility (less than 10%) that Earl could pass directly over the Outer Banks and/or the Delmarva peninsula. However, with a storm of Earl's size, the center does not have to pass overhead to cause damage. Please keep this in mind when considering your hurricane preparations.

Winds Forecast
Earl's size and track will produce tropical-storm force winds somewhere along the East Coast this weekend, and there is a 28% chance of hurricane-force winds along the Outer Banks. NHC puts out a very useful wind probability forecast. The highlights are that Cape Hatteras, NC has a 28% chance of hurricane-force winds and a 91% chance of tropical-storm (TS) force winds. A wide swath of 30+% probabilities covers the East Coast from Virginia to New England. Cities with a greater than 40% chance of TS winds include Norfolk, Ocean City, Providence, Boston, and Nantucket. Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada has a 62% chance of TS force winds.

Earl is expected to maintain its current intensity until it meets the trough and starts moving northeastwards. The shear from the trough will start weakening it. It will likely go by Cape Cod as a fast-moving category 2 hurricane. When it goes over Nova Scotia, it will likely still be a tropical storm.
Current Watches and Warnings

Hurricane warnings are valid for the coast from Bogue Inlet, NC to the NC/VA border. Hurricane watches in effect from the NC/VA border to Cape Henlopen, DE and from Woods Hole, MA to Sagamore Beach, MA. Tropical storm warnings and watches cover much of the coast in between the NC/VA border and Woods Hole, MA. For the latest information on watches and warnings for Earl, visit our Tropical Alerts page.

Impacts
The primary threats from Earl are going to be storm surge, surf, and wind. Since Earl is forecast to gain speed after meeting the trough, flooding from rain should not be a large problem. From a broad perspective, storm surges are expected to be 3-5 feet above the tidal level, with large breaking waves at the coast. Beach erosion along the Delmarva peninsula and Outer Banks (8-10 foot breaking waves) could be significant. For more localized info, check out NWS's Hurricane Local Statements or our severe weather page.

What to do
People living in areas covered by the watches and warnings should be working through their hurricane preparation plans now. You have less than 24 hours to complete your preparations if you are in the Outer Banks and less than 48 hours in New England. Be sure to listen to local media for statements from emergency management agencies and the local NWS.

Fiona
All watches and warnings for Fiona were discontinued by the 5:00 PM EDT forecast. Fiona is forecast to curve northward without affecting land and dissipate in 4 days.

Gaston
Once Earl moves past Nova Scotia, this is the storm to watch in the tropical Atlantic. While it is far out at sea (more than 6 days to affect land), some computer models suggest Gaston could affect the Bahamas or the Caribbean. Statistical intensity forecast models (LGEM and SHIPS) rapidly intensify Gaston, but the dynamical models (HWRF, GFDL) do not. This storm will be worth watching over the next week or so.

Aerial Reconnaissance
The skies around Earl are going to be very busy Thursday according to the Tropical Cyclone Plan of the Day. There will be 3 flights from the Hurricane Hunters. NCAR and NOAA's Gulfstream's will be flying around Earl. HRD's WP-3D's will be flying research missions every 12 hours. NASA is sending several aircchraft as part of their Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) mission. Their Global Hawk UAV will be flying for at least 24 hours. NASA's DC-8 has a six-hour mission scheduled. Finally, a WB-57 (one of the planes I supported during 2001's CRYSTAL-FACE) will also be flying high above Earl with microwave remote sensing gear. NASA has a nice list of the airborne instruments.


Fig. 2 Photo of Earl's eyewall taken from NASA's DC-8 Image Credit: NASA/Jane Peterson. (Full size image)

Next update
Dr. Jeff Masters will have an update Thursday morning. Dr. Masters, myself, Shaun Tanner, and myself will be participating in a special Hurricane Haven Thursday afternoon to discuss Earl's imminent approach. Dr. Masters will have the finalized details in his blog update.

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Quoting CloudGatherer:

Ha! Never heard that before. Of course, it's completely false, but it's clever.


You can 'snopes' the phrase and find out for yourself. It's a false etymology.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


If you are referring to the dropsonde at 30.07N 76.88W, that is 108 nautical miles from the center.

For the 200 NM reading, I was relying on this SFMR Reading
Time: 12:53:30Z
Coordinates: 29.7333N 77.9833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 643.8 mb (~ 19.01 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 3,815 meters (~ 12,516 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 1003.2 mb (~ 29.62 inHg)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 40 knots (~ 46.0 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 35 knots (~ 40.2 mph)

On the same run, that aircraft made its center fix at 30.15/74.8. So how do you get 108 NM?
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Quoting OBXgirl:


As one of the 5000, Thanks for caring.


OBXGirl, we do care. Do the right thing, LEAVE!
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Quoting hydrus:
I have been thru a lot of storms. I have seen people killed. And I know that if Katrina had made landfall as a cat-5, it would have been much worse. I dont know how else to say this, but I saw pictures of New Orleans and surrounding areas that were so painful and heart-wrenching, that I will go to my grave carrying the sorrow of just seeing them. I simply cannot forget what I saw..I am a grown person and can handle about anything. That was a tough couple of weeks.


I do sir. It was heart breaking. I drive a rig and delivered alot of relief supplies. The city has spirit rivaled by none. With no where near the population it once had, it still managed to come together, rebuild and produce a championship NFL team. Who else can boast this? =)
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The SSS scale is worthless as too IMPACT. It was designed 40 years ago almost for WIND loading on structures.

Impact counts.

Name another cat 3-4 that had a 30 foot surge on her East side and a 17-20 on her WEST...?


Its worthless the SSS and only provides a FALSE sense of security for the LESS informed. Today we focus on EARL..and its IMPACT.

The PAST is unchangeable..today we can make a difference,even if we get one family to bounce out the IMPACT area.
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Gaston right now is having problems with organization. Could him get more organizing in the next hours?...
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Just to let everyone know Brian is currently not online....i will get a time for his broadcast to begin and get it posted in a few.
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Quoting StormSurgeon:


Then again, he was referring to GAS-ton...heh heh.
lol...Unfortunately, we may not be making to much fun of that name in a week or so.....
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I'm in MD (between 95 and the bay) and I'm not afraid of Earl affecting me at all really, but I'm sure the eastern side of the bay will get some wind, rain, and surge. This storm is going to affect a lot of places a little bit instead of hitting one place hard.
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PREDICT Flight over Fiona

NCAR_GV_Products > GV > @ 2010/09/02 13:44 UTC

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Earl = Hurricane Bob (1991)

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963. lippy
Earl looks dead-on or just right of the forecast points to me.
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Quoting ElConando:
In other news, have you ever seen a slower mover across the ATL recently than Gaston. I mean i've seen some go 12-13 mph but 9?

GFS puts it near Cape Hatteras in 15 days. EURO slow for 10 days too. Ridge weakens over NW Atlantic so Gaston turns NW.
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Quoting tkeith:
IL, I re-read Docs updates leading up to landfall of Katrina a couple of days before the Anniversary. Bigtime sick feeling in your gut.


Hey, keith. I had to stop rereading/listening to all the stories and recollections. It's still too real. Anyway.... back to Earl

(hope you're well)
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Quoting IKE:


First off...you didn't say at landfall.

2nd...the NHC has Earl near 24HR VT 03/0600Z 34.8N 74.6W 115 KT, at 4 am CDST tomorrow. That's about 50-60 miles from any land. Katrina struck land. This one may not, IF the NHC track verifies.


LOL Why in the heck would it matter to me what the peak strength of the storm was out at sea. We all can agree the most important time to know a storms destructive capability (when it counts) is at landfall.. At this point it needs to be hooking to miss the outter banks.
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13:15 UTC

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Quoting gwhite713:


AT landfall is the key, and she was a "3" at landfall.By most standards Katrina wasn't a monster when she made landfall, she just made landfall in a very inconvieniant place. Money says when Earl crosses the outter banks, they will see much higher winds than MS,AL or LA saw at landfall with Katrina. Katrina was bad, no doubt, but imagine if she was packing cat 4 winds sustained when she hit. Thats what the outter banks are looking at.
I have been thru a lot of storms. I have seen people killed. And I know that if Katrina had made landfall as a cat-5, it would have been much worse. I dont know how else to say this, but I saw pictures of New Orleans and surrounding areas that were so painful and heart-wrenching, that I will go to my grave carrying the sorrow of just seeing them. I simply cannot forget what I saw..I am a grown person and can handle about anything. That was a tough couple of weeks.
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Quoting Patrap:


Andrew was a small diameter Hurricane and one could drive thru her impact Zone in 40 Minutes. It Takes 3 Hours to Drive thru Katrina's Impact Zone.

So the locality monomania is ridiculous and as per usual.



There is a kernel of truth. A little further north the trees aren't adapted to this kind of storm and there may be more risk of wind damage.
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952. h0db
Quoting Patrap:
A 30 Ft record storm surge from K was the demon..A storm dont wind down Like a drunken Sailor..the Momentum takes time.

K sent hurricane force winds to Hattiesburg and other places. Get a grip on reality.

A Major is a Major and Size Matters..


Katrina had been a very strong Cat 5 for a long time before dropping to Cat 3 windspeeds/pressure at landfall. But she still had a Cat-5 storm surge. The original post demonstrates the problem with the current Cat 1-5 system--unlike the F-scale for tornadoes, it doesn't convey the total damage potential of a hurricane, which cannot be measured by wind speed alone. Size, surge, tides, duration, angle of attack at landfall all matter critically.
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Quoting StormSurgeon:


Then again, he was referring to GAS-ton...heh heh.


Ok, that made me laugh out loud...
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947. 900MB
Earl is moving waaaaayyy faster than that front. Check the Water Vapor, the front looks stalled/stationary. Risk for Eastern Long Island looks to be increasing. Earl has to move 4 degrees east over next 10 degrees north to avoid Montauk. The higher it climbs going N or NNW, the more I sweat!
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Quoting hydrus:
That word is actually an acronym. It means "ship high in transit". Many years ago, ships would cargo manure for farming. If it became wet, it would give off methane and become an explosion hazard.

Ha! Never heard that before. Of course, it's completely false, but it's clever.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:

Yeah. Well, that was the prediction. But a hunter just measured 34 knot winds 200 nm SSW of the center. So that 120 SW estimate? Just a little bit understated.


If you are referring to the dropsonde at 30.07N 76.88W, that is 108 nautical miles from the center.
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Quoting IKE:


How did that GOM track for Earl work out stormtop?


Glad I'm not the only one who thought that.
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Quoting kimoskee:
Hurricanes are scary creatures (can I call it a creature?)

A couple tips I picked up (during Ivan)
- thread garbage bags in and out of louvre windows to create a water tight seal (they leak like crazy otherwise)
- keep beach towels to mop up leaks
- put pool furnitue in pool to prevent them blowing around
-If you don't have a toolkit get one
-PLAN ahead for your animals. They get so spooked (I feel so bad for them)
-PLAN for your kids. They have no idea how to entertain themselves without power. WHAT NO playstation????

Stay safe and say your prayers.


Hey! Great tip about the louvered windows! I learn something new every day. Thanks.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:

Katrina did her worst damage through her surge. She weakened as she approached the coast, but she was so enormous and her hurricane-force winds spread over such a vast area that her surge was catastrophic.

Earl is sustaining higher winds and lower pressures. But the worst surges come in the northeast quadrant of a storm, as its counter-clockwise rotation piles the water up against the fixed shoreline. We're not going to see that with Earl along the NC coast. And barring a fairly dramatic shift in its track, we're unlikely to see it in New England, either. It's the biggest threat this storm poses - if its track were to shift far enough due north to bring it ashore over southern New England, with - say - Providence or Fall River falling in its northeast quadrant, it could be truly devastating. But it's also one of the least likely outcomes.

Earl is going to do his damage with wind and rain, and battering waves. And it's quite likely, even on its forecast track, to be a devastating storm. But it's no Katrina, as of yet.



The both are comparable in size. Hurricane force winds only extended out 20 more miles if that than now over Earl. That can change in an hour and i hope it doesn't. Given the environment i'd say at least a strong cat 3 when it gets to the outter banks. But Earl has every bit and more wind than Katrina.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:

Katrina did her worst damage through her surge. She weakened as she approached the coast, but she was so enormous and her hurricane-force winds spread over such a vast area that her surge was catastrophic.

Earl is sustaining higher winds and lower pressures. But the worst surges come in the northeast quadrant of a storm, as its counter-clockwise rotation piles the water up against the fixed shoreline. We're not going to see that with Earl along the NC coast. And barring a fairly dramatic shift in its track, we're unlikely to see it in New England, either. It's the biggest threat this storm poses - if its track were to shift far enough due north to bring it ashore over southern New England, with - say - Providence or Fall River falling in its northeast quadrant, it could be truly devastating. But it's also one of the least likely outcomes.

Earl is going to do his damage with wind and rain, and battering waves. And it's quite likely, even on its forecast track, to be a devastating storm. But it's no Katrina, as of yet.



The both are comparable in size. Hurricane force winds only extended out 20 more miles if that than now over Earl. That can change in an hour and i hope it doesn't. Given the environment i'd say at least a strong cat 3 when it gets to the outter banks. But Earl has every bit and more wind than Katrina.
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Quoting ILwatcher:
906 - me too
IL, I re-read Docs updates leading up to landfall of Katrina a couple of days before the Anniversary. Bigtime sick feeling in your gut.
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Quoting Patrap:
NEXRAD Radar
Wilmington, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 248 NMI




And that convection is extreme outer bands. Look at that, you can't even see anything out to the full range of the radar. Unless there is a gap in the convection the radar is getting attenuated heavily. Seems we should see something out to ~250nm.
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Quoting hydrus:
That word is actually an acronym. It means "ship high in transit". Many years ago, ships would cargo manure for farming. If it became wet, it would give off methane and become an explosion hazard.


Then again, he was referring to GAS-ton...heh heh.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:

Katrina did her worst damage through her surge. She weakened as she approached the coast, but she was so enormous and her hurricane-force winds spread over such a vast area that her surge was catastrophic.

Earl is sustaining higher winds and lower pressures. But the worst surges come in the northeast quadrant of a storm, as its counter-clockwise rotation piles the water up against the fixed shoreline. We're not going to see that with Earl along the NC coast. And barring a fairly dramatic shift in its track, we're unlikely to see it in New England, either. It's the biggest threat this storm poses - if its track were to shift far enough due north to bring it ashore over southern New England, with - say - Providence or Fall River falling in its northeast quadrant, it could be truly devastating. But it's also one of the least likely outcomes.

Earl is going to do his damage with wind and rain, and battering waves. And it's quite likely, even on its forecast track, to be a devastating storm. But it's no Katrina, as of yet.



The both are comparable in size. Hurricane force winds only extended out 20 more miles if that than now over Earl. That can change in an hour and i hope it doesn't. Given the environment i'd say at least a strong cat 3 when it gets to the outter banks. But Earl has every bit and more wind than Katrina.
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936. IKE
Quoting katty5:
well if you cant handle the truth then you should not be n here...earl will do catastrophic damage to the n carlina coast it will be the worse they ever seen...there is a killer about to knock at your front door and the calvary isnt coming to help..


How did that GOM track for Earl work out stormtop?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting gwhite713:
Also to keep in mind. We arent talking about elastic palm trees like in the gulf shores, we're talking pines and maples up the NE coast. Not down playing Katrina repectively. But people act as if she were an Andrew in strength, far from it.


Andrew was a small diameter Hurricane and one could drive thru her impact Zone in 40 Minutes. It Takes 3 Hours to Drive thru Katrina's Impact Zone.

So the locality monomania is ridiculous and as per usual.

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933. IKE
Quoting gwhite713:


AT landfall is the key, and she was a "3" at landfall.By most standards Katrina wasn't a monster when she made landfall, she just made landfall in a very inconvieniant place. Money says when Earl crosses the outter banks, they will see much higher winds than MS,AL or LA saw at landfall with Katrina. Katrina was bad, no doubt, but imagine if she was packing cat 4 winds sustained when she hit. Thats what the outter banks are looking at.


First off...you didn't say at landfall.

2nd...the NHC has Earl near 24HR VT 03/0600Z 34.8N 74.6W 115 KT, at 4 am CDST tomorrow. That's about 50-60 miles from any land. Katrina struck land. This one may not, IF the NHC track verifies.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting ILwatcher:
I've never put a WU user on ignore but katty5 may become the first.



Sounds like stormtop.
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NEXRAD Radar
Wilmington, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 248 NMI


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Quoting hydrus:
That word is actually an acronym. It means "ship high in transit". Many years ago, ships would cargo manure for farming. If it became wet, it would give off methane and become an explosion hazard.


I forgot about that one. Too funny.....
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906 - me too
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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