But forecasters say most of the hurricane’s punch this evening will be over the open waters of the Atlantic, eliciting sighs of relief at places like Barnstable on Cape Cod and Montauk on the eastern end of Long Island.
The National Hurricane Center, in its 11 AM update, refered to Earl as a “large but weaker hurricane,” no longer the Category 4 monster with 145 mile-per-hour winds.
In fact, Bill Read, director of the National Hurricane Center, said at a press conference that it’s possible Earl will be below hurricane force by the time it moves past Nantucket. He said once it moves over colder water, which will sap the strength of its thunderstorms, it will diminish further.
Despite Earl’s diminished status, forecasters warned that it is still dangerous and could uproot trees and down power lines as it passes the coast. However, through early Friday there were no fatalities associated with the storm, said Craig Fugate, FEMA administrator.
“The Cape and the Massachusetts islands are one area where there could be some damage from trees coming down or power outages,” said Henry Margusity, a senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com in State College, Pa. “But the Jersey Shore and Long Island will be fine.”
Mr. Fugate also urged people in the affected areas to remain alert, especially those living near the coast. “Stay off the water, stay out of the water and don’t drive through the water,” he warned.
At first glance, it appears that Earl, which came within about 100 mile of Cape Hatteras, did not do any major damage to North Carolina’s Outerbanks. Mr. Margusity said he has seen images of street flooding and roads overwashed. “But there are not many trees down and it seems as if much of the power is still on,” he says.
AIR Worldwide, a private weather forecasting group in Boston, said it expected some non-structural elements, such as signage and awnings, to have some damage in the Outer Banks. And, in an e-mail, it added, “The potential also exists for wind-borne debris to have broken windows, possibly leading to contents damage.”
On the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket off the southeast coast of Massachusetts, residents began the process of battening down. Margusity said he expects Nantucket will experience wind gusts of about 70 miles per hour as the hurricane passes about 80 miles east of the island.
Richard Steves, the assistant harbor master at Menemsha, on Martha’s Vineyard, says his harbor looks like a ghost town since most of the larger yachts have headed for New Bedford, Mass., which has hurricane gates that can be closed to prevent huge waves from battering its fishing fleet.
“It’s not supposed to hit at high tide, which should help as well,” Mr. Steves said. “It will be about mid-tide so I’m not sure if we’ll see any flooding.”
Forecasters are expecting a storm surge of about two to four feet along the Massachusetts coast.