Posted: Sep 2, 2010 12:27 PM by Melissa Canone
BUXTON, N.C. (AP) - Hurricane Earl packed winds near 140 mph as
it blew toward North Carolina on Thursday, putting the Eastern
Seaboard up to Maine on alert for a Labor Day weekend pounding by
waves, gales and rain.
A hurricane warning for the tip of Massachusetts, including
Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, joined earlier warnings and
watches for hurricanes or tropical storms that stretch from North
Carolina up to near the Canadian border.
With Earl closing in on the U.S. coast, Federal Emergency
Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said there was no
longer time to wait on the next forecast to see how close the eye
of the storm might get to shore.
"They really need to focus today on what they're going to do
before the storm gets there," Fugate said. "Implement your plans
and be ready to heed evacuation orders."
Earl was a dangerous Category 4 storm and the hurricane force
winds were beginning to spread farther from the eye as the center
of the storm underwent a change, the National Hurricane Center in
The center's director, Bill Read, said hurricane winds were
spread 90 miles from the eye and widening. The eye of the storm
will likely remain about 30 to 75 miles east of the Outer Banks,
meaning at the closest point of approach, the western edge of the
eyewall could impact Cape Hatteras, with huge waves, beach erosion
and maybe some property damage from the waves.
"They're going to have a full impact of a major hurricane,"
There will be a similar close approach for the eastern tip of
Long Island, Rhode Island, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket.
"They'll be facing a similar scenario that North Carolina is
facing today," Read said. "And it will be bigger. The storm won't
be as strong but they spread out as they go north and the rain will
be spreading from New England."
"This is the strongest hurricane to threaten the northeast and
New England since Hurricane Bob in 1991," said Dennis Feltgen, a
meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
"They don't get storms this powerful very often."
Tourists were largely gone from North Carolina's Outer Banks,
but residents who stayed behind said they were prepared to face
down the powerful hurricane.
Gov. Beverly Perdue told reporters at a morning news conference
that North Carolina is prepared for Earl. It's now up to coastal
citizens to get to a safe place as the storm passes by, she said.
"We're very ready, as ready as anybody can be," Perdue said.
"It's a serious storm and we all need to treat it like a serious
Three counties have issued evacuation orders, but Perdue said
emergency officials can't make residents leave their homes. She
warned emergency crews often can't immediately reach stranded
coastal homeowners after a storm.
Evacuations continued early Thursday on the coast, with
residents and visitors told to leave a barrier island in Carteret
County and another in Dare County where the Wright Brothers
National Memorial marks their first successful airplane flights at
Kitty Hawk in 1903.
Residents like Nancy Scarborough, who manages the Hatteras
Cabanas, said Outer Banks residents have a tight-knit community
that takes care of its own.
"I worry about not being able to get back here," she said.
"I'd rather be stuck on this side than that side."
Along with the 30,000 residents and visitors asked to leave
Hatteras Island, 5,000 more tourists were ordered to leave Ocracoke
Island, which is only accessible by ferry and airplane.
The North Carolina National Guard is deploying 80 troops to help
and President Barack Obama declared an emergency in the state. The
declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all
disaster relief efforts.
Preparations were goiideon all the way up the East Coast. In
Maine, lobstermen took the storm in stride, putting their traps
into deeper water to ride out the hurricane instead of pulling them
in. Pat White said people who make their living on the water know
weather can be fickle and storms like Earl can change their paths
"You never know," White said. "You can't trust them."