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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I think Earl could be 100 knots as he nears Nantucket, MA and perhaps makes landfall with the island. I will at least be in the western eyewall of Earl, any NNE movement as he nears us means we are in the eye of Earl.
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Gaston has slowed to a crawl.
This is from the 5 AM Discussion.
Not good news for the Caribbean as it is forecast to drop a little further south.

GASTON CONTINUES TO DECELERATE AS IT FEELS THE EFFECTS OF A DEEP LAYER TROUGH TO ITS NORTH... AND THE INITIAL MOTION ESTIMATE IS NOW 280/8. GASTON IS FORECAST TO SLOW DOWN EVEN MORE OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS AS THE STORM REMAINS IN WEAK STEERING CURRENTS.

BY 48-72 HOURS...GLOBAL MODELS SHOW SOME MID-LEVEL RIDGING BUILDING TO THE NORTH OF GASTON AND THAT SHOULD STEER THE SYSTEM WESTWARD OR
EVEN WEST-SOUTHWESTWARD AT A SLIGHTLY FASTER SPEED. THE OFFICIAL TRACK FORECAST IS A LITTLE SLOWER AND SLIGHTLY TO THE SOUTH OF THE PREVIOUS ONE IN BEST AGREEMENT WITH THE MULTI-MODEL CONSENSUS.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS
INITIAL 02/0900Z 13.5N 38.2W 35 KT
12HR VT 02/1800Z 13.6N 39.0W 40 KT
24HR VT 03/0600Z 13.8N 40.1W 45 KT
36HR VT 03/1800Z 14.0N 41.2W 50 KT
48HR VT 04/0600Z 14.2N 42.5W 55 KT
72HR VT 05/0600Z 14.6N 45.9W 65 KT
96HR VT 06/0600Z 15.0N 50.0W 75 KT
120HR VT 07/0600Z 16.0N 55.0W 85 KT
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474. maeko
good morning!

surf's up here in Chas., SC...calling for 30ft off-shore and 6-9ft at the coast. the surfers are having a ball at the Washout. 97 degrees, clear and humid. some erosion is expected and they are concerned about some seaturtle nesting sites.

looking ahead to Fiona, Gaston, and 99L(?)...what's the story with them this morning?
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Looks like he just hit 30N 75W a point on the globe I've been watching for days. Not good for NC. Days ago I was called a wishcaster when I said he would hit this point. Now we have the same people saying he is right on track. Reminds me of politicans, the say whatever is on course for the day, you can't hold them to what they said yesterday.
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I live on Cape Cod, MA. NECN local news network expects him to remain a category three hurricane as he passes over or near Nantucket, MA.
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I think we are beginning to see that little jog west as was predicted by the steering map
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Little slot of dry air. Have to see what happens.
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Good morning, this bears repeating:

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
------------------------------
AT 500 AM EDT...0900 UTC...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE EARL WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 29.3 NORTH...LONGITUDE 74.7 WEST. EARL IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHWEST NEAR 18 MPH...30 KM/HR.

A TURN TOWARD THE NORTH IS EXPECTED LATER TODAY...WITH A TURN TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHEAST AND A FASTER FORWARD SPEED EXPECTED ON FRIDAY.

ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF EARL WILL PASS NEAR THE NORTH CAROLINA OUTER BANKS TONIGHT... AND APPROACH SOUTHEASTERN NEW ENGLAND FRIDAY NIGHT.

REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NOW NEAR 145 MPH...230 KM/HR... WITH HIGHER GUSTS. EARL IS A CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE. A GRADUAL WEAKENING IS EXPECTED TO START LATER TODAY.

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 90 MILES...150 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 230 MILES...370 KM.

For complete discussions, go to

www.nhc.noaa.gov

and/or click on the Tropical & Hurricane link on top of this page.

For local NWS warnings/radar, put your city/zip inside the boxes at either site.
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Quoting NOLA2005:


Sorry Jo, Blog ate my post! Went to Ramdis and now it wants me to upgrade my Java, which just isn't gonna happen this morning, lol! Did find other views and I do see what you're talking about.
I remember hurricane Opal and when it rapidly weaken when it had dry air pulled into it. It went from 150 mph winds to less then 100 mph winds within a couple of hours.
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I see ADT is giving him an ADJ T# of 5.5. What gives? Final is 6.1 - does the final lag or something?
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I know I'm not 100% safe but can I reasonably expect to see any TS force winds? Should I perhaps consider moving some things in off my balcony? This is what I am wondering. I don't want to go to bed one night, wake up and find that because of some drift in the forecast, my plant pots are now resting on the room of the supermarket next door ;)
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Read online that the Navy in Norfolk is preparing their ships to go possibly out to sea now.
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Pressure is 928mb? Whoa! That's dropped two from the 0200 advisory. I hope the people on the OBX start taking this seriously today. It didn't seem like anyone was preparing yesterday. A nighttime hurricane this big and this strong is going to catch a lot of people off guard if they do nothing.
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Quoting HCW:


You are never safe until there is no longer a storm


You are never safe, period. You could be run over by a Coors truck tomorrow.

Follow the advice of state emergency management officials, keeping an eye on local TV. Don't listen to anyone on this blog for "am I safe?" guidance.
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Removed
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Good Morning...
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Morning folks.

Hows everyone doing? Havent heard about anything serious just yet.

TS Watch up for me, should be a fun Friday.

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Our local media is saying that the turn has already begun but this is what the NWS for Wilmington is saying..can anyone confirm that the turn has begun

.SYNOPSIS...
HURRICANE EARL...ABOUT 400 MILES SOUTHEAST OF CAPE FEAR...WILL
CONTINUE TO MOVE NORTH NORTHWEST TURNING MORE NORTHWARD THROUGH
THIS AFTERNOON
PASSING EAST OF THE NORTH CAROLINA COAST TONIGHT.
EARL WILL BRING HEAVY SURF AND DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS TO THE
COASTAL CAROLINAS. SMALL CHANGES IN THE FORECAST TRACK COULD LEAD
TO MUCH LESSER OR GREATER EFFECTS LOCALLY. A COLD FRONT WILL USHER
IN SOME MORE SEASONABLE AIR OVER THE WEEKEND. THESE CONDITIONS
WILL PREVAIL WELL INTO NEXT WEEK.
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451. HCW
Quoting Fiscal:
Living 50 miles inland near Philadelphia, I should be safe from this, right?


You are never safe until there is no longer a storm and there is some kind of data issue with the NWS and it should be fixed very soon and you will get updated local info/graphics
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Quoting DestinJeff:
0900 steering at two highest layers





Ouch, that's some strong steering at 200 to 700. I suppose the expectation remains that the subtropical jet is going to push the whole mess east after a bit of NNW tracking (with the push commencing this evening/overnight), and that will be the end of that.
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Quoting breald:


same here. They extended a hurricane watch for my area but the nws does not show it.
Local offices are just slow to update this morning, probably will somewhere around 7AM
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Quoting Engine2:
Its funny, the NHC has put me in a Tropical Storm Warning but my local NWS map still has me in a watch. Odd


same here. They extended a hurricane watch for my area but the nws does not show it.
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Its funny, the NHC has put me in a Tropical Storm Warning but my local NWS map still has me in a watch. Odd
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Living 50 miles inland near Philadelphia, I should be safe from this, right?
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Quoting smuldy:
lol articulate is not something im often called past 5am lol but this is the end of the night for me on my zombie shift lol the daytime heat in summer is too much to endure in SFL but the night time is absolutely gorgeous, so my schedule adjusts appropriately lol


Good morning. I loved working nights for the same reason. And this early morning in Florida is particularly gorgeous. I have a temp of 66 here. Haven't seen that in three months.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
0900 steering at two highest layers



Yea you're right, probably will see a little jog west judging by the steering
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439. HCW
Gaston Model runs from the NHC
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Quoting Patrap:
Earl has rounded the Sub tropical ridge and the motion is almost Due North as expected.

Floater - Rainbow Color Infrared Loop



Yep, Actually looks a bit East of the NHC forecast track...that's good! I have to applaude the NHC and all the HH's.
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I've gotta go for now. Thanks to all for the info. Will check back later on today...looks to be interesting!
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Good morning everyone. That trof is not looking any closer than it was twelve hours ago. Last thing the east coast is for it to go up along the coast literally. Earl needs to start turning due north soon!
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Quoting Engine2:
Trough sure is taking its time!
http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/winds/wg8wvir.html


North is good enough for now (although the NHC calls for 75.3 at 1800z).
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433. h0db
Quoting Buzzit:
Im not sure that Earl has started a N direction as yet, not enough time on the sat loop and considering Earls strength and distance to the trough is still likely to be stair stepping


Yup, the "turncasters" have been clucking for the past day, and they are still too early by about 12 hours. When Earl gains another degree of westing over the next few hours (look at the forecast points), they are going to need a new depends.
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432. Vero1
Quoting mcluvincane:


Trolls out early this am


Hope they don't miss the school bus!
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Quoting flibinite:
Thanks, WatchingThisOne, but I can't see that, as my browser is too old to handle it (I'm still on Win XP, too). :(

Jo


Sorry to hear that :-( ... it shows a slot of dry air spiraling in and chewing away at the SE side of the inner eye. I'd screen-capture and post it for you but I'm not set up for photobucket or similar.

I believe the dry crescent we are now seeing is that slot wrapped around to the west 180 degrees.

WTO
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somehow decided to post twice modified to delete
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Quoting traumaboyy:


LOL.....I am still watching for former TD 5 to reemerge and strenthen to a CAT 5 and blow my roof off...lol
ok i had to comment on that--UGH lol that was my greatest irritation for a solid week and I will wager good money that at least SOMEONE not intending to be funny asks if the next AOI from a trof split off the coast between NOLA and western FL "could possibly be xxxxtd5" and at least 8 people start calling it xxxxtd5 for 2 days time--ciao for now everyone
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Quoting breald:


surge is only a major issue if he makes landfall.


If Earl stays offshore, will this not pull the water out and away from the coast?
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Quoting breald:


I am in southeastern Ma.
I'll say the same thing I told my less mobile grandmother in Johnston RI; buy ice and some decent cold foods just in case, keep an eye out, and I will add if you live near the water have some sand on hand. It could stay offshore and it will move quickly, those 2 things are a plus for you (so long as youre not on the Cape), but if it stays a large storm you will feel some effects so just be prepared. good thing about the NE (having grown up in CT with many a blizzard) is that power companies move alot faster than they do down here. Definitely pay close attention though and if need be get everything ready early on friday. On that note I am out for about 30 minutes. GL everyone
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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.