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 cYcLoN1C86:
8 ball on Gaston? Well here is what I got. I see the system moving slowly to the west and sometime next week it should arrive near Puerto Rico. It is near Puerto Rico where the High is forecast to break down and Gaston should have no problem feeling the weakness and go out to sea. Still far away, but the setup just does not favor a long Journeyed CV storm to strike the US.


I like your 8 ball
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Quoting angiest:


I don't think it is as large as Katrina, and is certainly not more powerful. Katrina's minimum central pressure was roughly 30mb lower.


Katrina was a cat 3 medium range when it hit land. This is is a 4. central pressure slightly lower by a mb or two,dosent necessarily mean more powerful. She didnt have the winds Early does.
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Quoting Fla55Native:
A question for anyone who knows. Is there a site where someone can view longer satelite loops? Longer loops would show the general motion better. Perhaps some of the posts that pick up on every wobble might not fill up the blog as much


UHMET has a 24 frame loop that I like.

http://weather.hawaii.edu/satellite/index.cgi?thumbs=on&satgroup=tropatl&banner=uhmet
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Quoting sammywammybamy:


Just be Thankful this is Hitting the Outer Banks (Only 5,000 People) Not Miami or New york (5 Millon +)

As one of the 5000, Thanks for caring.
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i hope they realize it could be like when Ivan hit pensacola area, we had devastating tornadoes, people died, in area from panama city beach to gulf county, tho we had only tropical storm winds. so just because it isnt gonna be a direct hit doesnt mean you shouldnt be careful! also power loss and downed trees etc.
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
Quoting Relix:

Oh my god it was the word rocking? Geesh what the heck I didn't even know that could be foul language. Most of you are grown men today and kids who are browsing here have obviously read worse things. Please don't be ridiculous.


FWIW, I didn't report it, just made a mental note that it would get removed for that. :)
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869. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
heh that was unusual

the foul language was intended in the post, but Relix censored himself/herself and it was removed..
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Quoting yonzabam:


I think it might have had a swear word in it.


Yeah, after it was removed there was a post mentioning the swear words, I guess by the person who reported it.
Some trigger happy people out there.
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Quoting VBgirl:
In Virginia there are NO evacuation orders. I don't really understand why not. There are no evacuation orders anywhere but the outer banks. I have heard nothing about shelters. All I know is we have a Cat 4 hurricane bearing down on us. I hope that it does turn like they are saying it will.


You're indeed right- I spoke with the Essex Co. Sheriff's dept approx 8am and they said that this weekend will be fine. They shouldn't see anything more than 20mph gusts and a little rain. Huh? EEssex is @ 80mi from Va Beach.
Member Since: August 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 25
Quoting gwhite713:
TWC just said Vermont could be seeing tropical storm force winds, and on into NY State. crazy. This storm is more powerful than Katrina, and larger. People inland my want to think about securing things around the yard..


I don't think it is as large as Katrina, and is certainly not more powerful. Katrina's minimum central pressure was roughly 30mb lower.
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863. Relix
Gaston will be a TD at 11 but it's thanks to all that dry air. It will continue weak for a while that was expected. Remember... all of these Hurricanes you've seen this year went through this area and looked like ----. ALL! Gaston is moving slower than them indeed, but as soon as he's out he will be turning into the monster he's predicted to be.

There here we go. Fixed for some.
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Far too early to say what's going to happen with Gaston. The models are divergent.

Even Earl, just a few hours before making conditions in North Carolina go downhill rapidly, has uncertainty to his track.

Let alone 5 or 6 days out with Gaston. He may not make the islands before the middle of next week.
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860. Relix
Quoting angiest:


You used potty language, as they say at my kid's daycare.

Oh my god it was the word rocking? Geesh what the heck I didn't even know that could be foul language. Most of you are grown men today and kids who are browsing here have obviously read worse things. Please don't be ridiculous.
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859. IKE
From the 4am advisory...

EYE DIAMETER 25 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 125 KT WITH GUSTS TO 150 KT.
64 KT....... 80NE 70SE 40SW 60NW.
50 KT.......120NE 120SE 90SW 100NW.
34 KT.......200NE 180SE 120SW 180NW.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting itrackstorms:


Rules of the Road

1. Please do not carry on personal disputes in the blogs.
2. Threats, intimidation, especially that which extends into the real world will be dealt with by extreme action.
3. Foul language is not allowed.
4. Please avoid topics that would be considered adults only. Many children come to this site looking for information about the weather.
5. Do not circumvent administrative action by creating new users, etc.
6. No spam.


6. No spam

......but that's one of the basic staples I stock up on during hurricane season....LOL
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Quoting gumbogrrl:


Just leave! It is the smart thing to do!


Would if I could. :\ I've been through plenty of hurricanes here but I don't wanna mess with Earl. I'm supposed to work today too, until 3:30...I think I'm going to have a fun drive home out of Jacksonville.

Media coverage has been cloudy at best. Because of the confusion with the warnings I'm not all too sure if I'm under a hurricane warning or TS warning - totally in the dark atm as to the current risk assessment for Onslow County.
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Quoting Relix:
What? Why was my comment removed I said nothing bad? Just that Gaston was going to struggle like all others before him and when he got out he would recover strength.


I think it might have had a swear word in it.
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Quoting IKE:
1315 visible....



So he didn't make it to annular. Still, a very large and powerful storm.
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Quoting gwhite713:
Earl's west eyewall just crossed 75W, healthy outflow on the SW and W side of CDO. Any models have Earl crossing 75W?


In the last NHC discussion they had the forecast points going as far West as 75.3, I wrote it down and circled it. If Earl gets past that point it's gone past the furthest Western point the NHC thinks it will go before turning North and then Northeast, see below copied from the last NHC Forecast Discussion for Earl.

INITIAL 02/0900Z 29.3N 74.7W 125 KT
12HR VT 02/1800Z 31.7N 75.3W 125 KT
24HR VT 03/0600Z 34.8N 74.6W 115 KT
36HR VT 03/1800Z 38.1N 72.6W 100 KT


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Quoting RecordSeason:
Here's some good news.

From what I can tell, the 1016mb line finally broke to the east.

It's hard to tell exactly where because it's off the floater screen, but maybe this will prevent too much more of a westward trend.


is that the trough everyone is talking about?
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TWC just said Vermont could be seeing tropical storm force winds, and on into NY State. crazy. This storm is more powerful than Katrina, and larger. People inland my want to think about securing things around the yard..
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:


No Problem...
here on Providenciales it was a non event (thankfully) ...being on the West side, and Dry air saved us from worse effects.
looks like Gaston has a bead on you too...

but if anyone knows what to expect this time of year, it's you CRS :)
Member Since: November 1, 2004 Posts: 25 Comments: 8923
849. JeffM
Quoting gwhite713:
Earl's west eyewall just crossed 75W, healthy outflow on the SW and W side of CDO. Any models have Earl crossing 75W?


They all do. Models all show this storm getting really close to the OBX BEFORE turning.
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848. Relix
Quoting itrackstorms:


Rules of the Road

1. Please do not carry on personal disputes in the blogs.
2. Threats, intimidation, especially that which extends into the real world will be dealt with by extreme action.
3. Foul language is not allowed.
4. Please avoid topics that would be considered adults only. Many children come to this site looking for information about the weather.
5. Do not circumvent administrative action by creating new users, etc.
6. No spam.


Where was the foul language in that post? Nowhere.
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Hmmmm...strange, I was listening to all those people over the last few days saying that Earl was gonna surprise everyone and hit South Florida...looks pretty sunny out here in Palm Beach. Must be hitting Miami. I'll just wait for one of them to provide me with an update.
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Quoting Relix:
What? Why was my comment removed I said nothing bad? Just that Gaston was going to struggle like all others before him and when he got out he would recover strength.


You used potty language, as they say at my kid's daycare.
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844. Relix
What? Why was my comment removed I said nothing bad? Just that Gaston was going to struggle like all others before him and when he got out he would recover strength.
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Quoting aasmith26:


Very scary, I'm in Gloucester just north of VB, getting kinda nervous. Don't really know what to do now!


First, get a full tank of gas in your car and visit your ATM to get some ready cash. If Earl shifts West, you may need to evacuate for a few days.

Second, secure your yard and house. Remove any lawn furniture on the North & East sides of your house. Anything light that may blow around needs to be brought inside your garage.

Third, if you can, board up or secure your windows on the North and East sides of your house. Your main goal is to try to keep debris from hitting the window and breaking it, letting in the storm winds and rain.

Fourth, if you live in an area less than 10 feet elevation above sea level, you should consider leaving now. Storm surges can push inland for miles. Even if you're 10 miles from the coast, if your area is low-lying off of a bay or inlet, you can still get flooding when the water rises.

Fifth, if you DO plan to stay... then get things together for "what-if" scenarios. Where will your family go if the roof blows off? Which neighbors house or shelter will be safest as a 2nd shelter if your own house isn't safe? How will you find it? (remember, during a hurricane you may not be able to see very well). What if you have to get up into the attic, how will you get out?

Only you know your house and neighborhood. Where in YOUR HOUSE is safest places to be? What are your hazards?
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842. IKE
1315 visible....

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Kill Devil Hills, NC still has quite a few people on the beach. It looks like a decent day there so far.
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Quoting tkeith:
812. CaicosRetiredSailor 8:24 AM CDT on September 02, 2010

I hope you fared well from your brush with Earl.


No Problem...
here on Providenciales it was a non event (thankfully) ...being on the West side, and Dry air saved us from worse effects.
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Quoting ncstorm:


Yeah our local news said we should start getting the first rainbands by 10 this morning and TS winds should start about 2pm today..they didnt cancel school here so kids will be coming home in TS winds when they get out today..


Getting out to 100nm, the convection already looks pretty intense (remember, we are looking fairly high in the storm at that point) and these are just the outer bands. I think people in NC are going to be in for a surprise.
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Wilmington NC looks like the surf is really picking up.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
That XTRP vector aint purty.

+1 (wink)
Member Since: March 30, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 338


This is a bad tight storm wind and water damage
is going to be insane if or when it hits land
just to close dont get caught up in this if you dont have to if your on an island leave now
dont take a chance with your family your home can be replaced they cant.
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Quoting NCWatch:
The outer bands are starting to cloud the sky and the birds are silent. Very eerie here in central east NC (35.86N 77.88W) Pressure is at 30.04.
Well at least the animals know when to get out of Dodge. You should follow.
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People remember Hugo, when they evacuated, only to be drilled in the evacuated to cities unable to return home.
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Earl's west eyewall just crossed 75W, healthy outflow on the SW and W side of CDO. Any models have Earl crossing 75W?
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Quoting breald:
off to get some supplies, toilet paper, dog food, batteries for the radio and alcohol. BBL.


be safe! is earl coming to you?
Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 1448
Quoting redwagon:
Reedzone: The trough is slow, and weakening due to Earl's interaction.. Look at the water vapor.

Doesn't that move Earl into the annular column, if he is influencing weather ahead of him?


It just shows the power of Category 4 Hurricane Earl! The trough will recurve it, but now for another 24 hours form what it looks. I just don't see it right now, Earl should continue moving NNW, perhaps due North for the next 20-24 hours. May not even turn NNE by then, it's something to closely watch. I believe this will be 50-70 miles off Long Island, and a possible direct hit for Cape Cod by looking at the steering layers, the trough is still in the midwest today. Gotta go to work..
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7340
the windfield of Earl has also expanded with the intensification last night
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14249
Quoting bohonkweatherman:
If Earl does not make a direct hit anywhere we should all feel a relief, the forecast right now is good news for everyone.


Helloooo??? Remember, you do NOT have to get a "direct hit" from the eye to suffer devastating damage. The tropical storm force winds and hurricane force winds can extend hundreds of miles from the center (eye). That means wind damage, tornados (let's NOT forget about those), and flooding from huge amounts of rain, and STORM SURGE. Too many people focus on the eye of the storm and get complacent when the eye is not coming directly at them.

THIS IS A MASSIVE STORM. IT WILL CAUSE LOTS OF DAMAGE EVEN IF THE EYE DOES NOT MAKE A DIRECT HIT.
Please make preparations and/or evacuate if ordered.
Good luck to all. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.
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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.