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 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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This can't be right. I am seeing winds as strong as 100kts on the base and storm-relative velocity scans on long range radar. I can't locate them, however.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting 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 rocking.


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812. CaicosRetiredSailor 8:24 AM CDT on September 02, 2010

I hope you fared well from your brush with Earl.
Member Since: November 1, 2004 Posts: 25 Comments: 8936
Quoting RobertM320:
I just have to mention this:

I'll bet half the people from eastern NC/VA that are currently debating whether to leave or not, are the same people whom, after Katrina, called people in Louisiana crazy for not leaving.

When in doubt, get the heck out!



RobertM320, you are so right about that. I have often thought of that...no matter what people don't understand until they are put in the situation. Personally, I always leave for storms in New Orleans, as I have the means to leave and they scare the hell out of me. I know everyone is waiting for the "turn"...but, one thing we learned with Katrina was that you can't depend on the gov't or the meteorologists 100%. You just need to get the hell out of the way when a monster like this has you in their crosshairs. No doubt.

Friday before Katrina hit, we thought Katrina was going to the Northern Coast of Fl b/c that's what the meteorologists were saying. We woke up on Saturday morning finding out she was headed our way to New Orleans/Biloxi area...she completely pulled a fast one on everybody!

Just leave! It is the smart thing to do!
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I'm really surprised that the media is as calm as they are. Earl is getting to the point where he needs to start going east a bit not to make landfall in NC. I am thinking the track may shift west if he doesn't do something soon.
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820. Vero1
Quoting nchurricane:
Hey folks, checking in from Sneads Ferry NC just off of Topsail Island. just a quickl question, i live on the water and i have a dock but the water is really low right now like below normal low tide. Any Explanations?


The wave height at the center of Earl is +/-46 ft. The sea is being drawn inward toward the center,

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Quoting wayfaringstranger:
Im eyeing that...Id like to know if the possible flooding on the east coast will cause any water supply issues?
When the flooding comes in it goes into the sewers backs them up then can compromise your water supply. That is why you are told to stock enough water for a few days. Also, water supplies are usually pumped. No electricity, no water pressure in the lines, thence the seawater and sewage water gets into the lines.
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NC This is where the water goes....

It is being caused by Earls circulation. I have seen it many times, to the point that my boat was sitting in mud at my dock (normally 6.5" deep). Don't worry, it will be back plus interest....
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Quoting angiest:


I don't know what city radar station KLTX is at, but the outermost rainbands are only about 50nm out, according to radar.


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..
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Quoting nchurricane:
Hey folks, checking in from Sneads Ferry NC just off of Topsail Island. just a quickl question, i live on the water and i have a dock but the water is really low right now like below normal low tide. Any Explanations?


As a big hurricane approaches it sucks water back into it. This is part of what creates the surge. The Back Bay in Biloxi was empty when Camille approached, and dropped considerably before Katrina.
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Morning all...
Any thoughts on Gaston? Is it really ex-Gaston now, so back to TD or just a tropical low?
I dont think it's an open wave though, and considering how Fiona was made and kept a storm looking much worse, it could very well be a 40mph storm still.

By the way, isnt this what the GFS calls for? A very weak system until about Saturday...
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For Eastern North Carolina Coastal Waters
Dangerous Hurricane Earl will approach North Carolina today...

Today
Tropical storm conditions expected with hurricane conditions possible. E winds 15 to 20 kt...becoming NE 30 to 40 kt with gusts up to 55 kt this afternoon. Seas 13 to 18 ft ft dominant period 16 seconds...building to 21 ft dominant period 16 seconds this afternoon. Showers likely...mainly this afternoon.

Tonight
Hurricane conditions expected. NE winds 50 to 60 kt with gusts up to 80 kt...becoming N 60 to 80 kt with gusts up to 95 kt after midnight. Seas 25 to 30 ft dominant period 15 seconds. Showers likely.

Fri
Tropical storm conditions expected with hurricane conditions possible. NW winds 40 to 50 kt with gusts up to 65 kt...becoming W 15 to 20 kt in the afternoon. Seas 20 to 25 ft...subsiding to 10 ft in the afternoon. A chance of showers.

WU animated Wave Forecast

http://www.wunderground.com/MAR/AM/154.html?map=wave&animate=1
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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!


I
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.


The topography there means you're very probably safe from the worst impacts, although you might get tropical storm conditions.

NC, to the south of you is at great risk because it juts out more into the Atlantic, so Earl's eye could hit the outer banks there, which would be catastrophic for that area. Even if the eye remains out to sea (as predicted by most models) it could still be very bad.

Earl is predicted to curve away from the Virginia coast, but could hit Cape Cod as it juts out into the Atlantic, too.
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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.


Not sure I agree with you or know what you mean.
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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?
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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.
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Wilmington Radar
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A dropsonde from the Hurricane Hunter now returning to base just measured 40 knot winds at the surface level - at 76.9W. That's sustained winds at 45 miles per hour, two hundred miles west of the current aircraft center-fix. Using the somewhat less reliable SFMR, it found Tropical Storm force winds another 30 miles beyond that.

I just want to emphasize that for the flood of new visitors to the site. Earl can pass offshore, on the predicted track, and still bring TS-force winds 230 miles west of its center. It's not a question anymore of whether this is going to be a bad storm for the coast - it's merely a question of how bad.
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Quoting nchurricane:
Hey folks, checking in from Sneads Ferry NC just off of Topsail Island. just a quickl question, i live on the water and i have a dock but the water is really low right now like below normal low tide. Any Explanations?
That could be because the eye is pulling the water into it, then comes the surge which will be very large. Why are you still there?
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Quoting RecordSeason:
Possible westward jog coming up soon.

The CDO and feeder bands are elongating to the NW again...


Good observation...and scary...
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 383
Quoting angiest:


If you haven't evacuated you don't need the special channel. That is a service provided to evacuees so they can get local news where-ever they are.


Oh Okay..we of course are not under evacuations here in Wilmington but I am concerned that the NE turn has not happened yet
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Sometime today NHC should switch to the 2 hour intermediate advisory schedule.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Wilmington radar is showing the first rain bands moving in about 45 miles SE
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Quoting DestinJeff:
I don't think we'll see any easterly component out of Earl for at least another 24hrs.
Im eyeing that...Id like to know if the possible flooding on the east coast will cause any water supply issues?
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If Earl does not make a direct hit anywhere we should all feel a relief, the forecast right now is good news for everyone.
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Quoting ncstorm:
If Earl dosent turn NE or as predicted from the NHC, what would be the affects that the South East Coast of NC will feel..if that happens..Can someone answer this question..right now we are under a TS warning..would this change to a hurricane warning


I don't know what city radar station KLTX is at, but the outermost rainbands are only about 50nm out, according to radar.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting A4Guy:
Queston: many news reports indicate that the evacuations in NC are the first since Bob in 1991...were there not any evacuations with Isabel? She wasn't quite as strong - 105 mph winds near landfall...but she was bigger (h-force winds out 115 mi from center vs. 90 for Earl...and t-storm force winds out 315 mi from center vs. 200 for Earl). Typical news media hyping Earl as the biggest, baddest hurricane...but I guess they need to in order to get people to pay attention.
This storm is a killer. Even a brush will bring in tidal surge. I am surprised that more evacuations haven't been ordered. What, is everyone taking an early Labor Day weekend?
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Anybody have their 8 ball tuned into Gaston? If so, what does it say?
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When is the next update from NHC
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If Earl dosent turn NE or as predicted from the NHC, what would be the affects that the South East Coast of NC will feel..if that happens..Can someone answer this question..right now we are under a TS warning..would this change to a hurricane warning
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Quoting HadesGodWyvern:


heh Tropical Depressions usually get "Ex" - name


Yep, usually, but this one is probably not going to fall apart just yet. If indeed, it has gone back to TD status.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Hey folks, checking in from Sneads Ferry NC just off of Topsail Island. just a quickl question, i live on the water and i have a dock but the water is really low right now like below normal low tide. Any Explanations?
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Quoting ncstorm:


but as soon as the wind or rain blows hard, you lose satellite..


If you haven't evacuated you don't need the special channel. That is a service provided to evacuees so they can get local news where-ever they are.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
784. A4Guy
Queston: many news reports indicate that the evacuations in NC are the first since Bob in 1991...were there not any evacuations with Isabel? She wasn't quite as strong - 105 mph winds near landfall...but she was bigger (h-force winds out 115 mi from center vs. 90 for Earl...and t-storm force winds out 315 mi from center vs. 200 for Earl). Typical news media hyping Earl as the biggest, baddest hurricane...but I guess they need to in order to get people to pay attention.
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783. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Quoting Cotillion:


Gaston isn't gone.


heh Tropical Depressions usually get "Ex" - name
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Quoting wilburo33:
In the past, Directv has put local stations, from the storm area, on channel 363. They may do this again.


but as soon as the wind or rain blows hard, you lose satellite..
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
Regarding the very latest GOES satellite image along w/ Nexrad Reflectivity loops...it appears in my opinion that Earl has just about reached it's furthest point west longitude. Motion now appears to be 350 degrees (almost due north), & any westward jogs/wobbles should not be enough to knock it off its latest projected GFS model run at this point. Midwest trough's influence will continue impacting the steering of the system the next 48 hrs. Even the eyewall & northwest quadrant of storm passing 50mi east of OTB & eastern seaboard will amass quite a storm surge. Also, the system most likely reached it's height last evening when the central pressure dipped to 930mb. The 145mph sustained inner-core winds now mirrors that. Very impressive storm indeed. Again...not a bad run for good old Earl.
Hopefully your right then only hurricane winds will extend 50 miles inland however its still going to depend on the movement of the trof which is showing almost stationary if not stationary.

Go out side and start blowing to the east?!
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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.


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

Thoughts and prayers for everyone in Earl's path... think safe - stay safe.

BTW, where are all of the fish mongers this morning?..lol
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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.
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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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