Hurricane Earl path may cross Long Island, Cape Cod before Labor Day

Hurricane Earl is now a Category 4 hurricane. Long Island and the Northeast could be affected by the projected Hurricane Earl path. But the forecast’s margin of error is still as many as 300 miles.

Andres Leighton/AP
Wind caused by the approaching Hurricane Earl kicks up waves and blows palm trees in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday Aug. 30.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff
Chart: Coastal counties most often hit by hurricanes, 1960 to 2008

[Editor's note: Forecasters have issued hurricane warnings on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. For the most recent article, click here. For a list of how to prepare for a hurricane, click here.]

Hurricane Earl may become a bigger threat to the East Coast than previously thought.

The latest National Weather Service projection has moved the track of the storm, now a Category 4 hurricane, farther west. If Earl stays on that path, it could threaten the eastern US, especially Long Island and parts of New England, as early as Thursday night or Friday.

Weather service officials, however, say, “Nothing is etched in stone.”

IN PICTURES: Huge hurricanes

“The margin of error is still 200 to 300 miles,” says Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “But everyone needs to be paying attention to this.”

Even if the storm does not hit the coast, forecasters are certain it will cause rough surf that could prevent thousands of residents and vacationers in the Northeast from enjoying a dip in the ocean this Labor Day weekend.

“The rip currents are going to continue through the first half of the weekend,” warns Henry Margusity, a senior meteorologist at in State College, Pa.

Mr. Margusity says there is still a lot of uncertainty about the exact track of the storm. At the moment, he suspects that it will mainly remain offshore, resulting in strong gusty tropical-force winds on eastern Long Island and rain in New York City. The storm would then track northeast and hit Cape Cod for several hours before heading for Maine and Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

“I think on Long Island it will just look like a bad nor’easter storm, and on the cape there could be some hurricane-force winds,” says Margusity.

If the storm were to move even farther west, it could follow Interstate 95 up the coast. This could cause major damage as storm surge waters get pushed up the Hudson River and high winds hit Long Island.

“I could see the eye cutting over eastern Long Island and then Boston,” says Margusity.

What will determine the track of the storm is a powerful low-pressure zone that is currently moving through the Midwest, bringing rain and thunderstorms.

“Hurricanes like to back into these lows,” says Margusity. The low-pressure zone may also cause the storm to get sucked to the Northeast, depending on the timing.

Emergency officials in New York say they have begun conversations with county officials about storm preparedness.

“We have our plans in place,” says Dennis Michalski, director of Public Information for the New York State Division of Homeland Security.

New York is better prepared than it has been in the past because it has an evacuation plan, says Nicholas Coch, a professor at City University of New York and an expert on preparedness.

But, he says, “New Yorkers are born complacent. They never believe the hurricanes are going to hit, they think it will veer or the cold water will stop it. I have heard all the reasons why they don’t think it will affect them.”

IN PICTURES: Huge hurricanes

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