POWERFUL Hurricane Earl wheeled toward the East Coast, driving the first tourists yesterday from North Carolina vacation islands and threatening damaging winds and waves up the Atlantic seaboard over Labour Day weekend.
Visitors were taking ferries off Ocracoke Island and told to leave neighbouring Cape Hatteras in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and federal authorities have warned people all along the Eastern seaboard to be prepared to evacuate.
Virginia’s Gov Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency as a precaution, allowing the state to position staff and resources ahead of the storm. Emergency officials as far north as Maine urged people to have disaster plans and supplies ready.
Earl was still more than 1,100km south-southeast off Cape Hatteras, with top sustained winds of 200km/h. It was on track to near the North Carolina shore late Thursday or early Friday and then blow north along the coast, with forecasters cautioning that it was still too early to tell how close the storm may come to land.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for much of the North Carolina coast and hurricane watches from Virginia to Delaware.
Not since Hurricane Bob in 1991 has such a powerful storm had such a large swath of the East Coast in its sights, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
“A slight shift of that track to the west is going to impact a great deal of real estate with potential hurricane-force winds,” Feltgen said.
Even if Earl stays offshore, it will kick up rough surf and dangerous rip currents at the coast through the Labour Day weekend.
In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Judy Rice said she has no plans to leave her vacation home.
“I kind of enjoy it actually,” Rice said. “I have seen the rain go sideways, and, yeah, it can be scary, but I have an old house here in Rehoboth, so it’s probably more important that I am here during a storm than anywhere.”
Picture shows Hurricane Earl viewed from the orbiting International Space Station
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