Forecasters said Hurricane Earl was weakening as it passed over North Carolina’s Outer Banks early this morning, but was still packing powerful winds as it headed up the Eastern Seaboard.
The National Hurricane Center said Earl’s winds were now at about 105 mph – which is Category 2 strength. A new tropical storm warning was issued for New England from the coasts of Massachusetts to Maine.
A Tropical Storm Watch was issued for New York City and much of the Tri-State’s eastern shores are under a Tropical Storm Warning. So what exactly can you expect?
Meteorologist Lonnie Quinn said Earl could become a category 1 storm by 2 p.m. this afternoon.
The storm’s expected path means the Tri-State area won’t take a direct hit and while Earl is certainly cause for concern, it won’t be nearly as devastating as past storms.
However, some hurricane experts said residents should remain alert.
“These things are completely unpredictable beasts,” said Steven Englebright, the curator of geology at Stony Brook University, who is also a New York state assemblyman.
At the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Flushing Meadows, Queens, officials were hopeful that the matches could go on.
“If it [Hurricane Earl] maintains the current size it’s at, there’s a very good chance we could be affected,” said Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the United States Tennis Association.
Closer to the ocean, the effects of Earl – including huge waves engulfing surfers, boats maneuvering in rough waters and closed beaches – could be seen.
“We’re noticing the swell and I think the outer bands of the storm are approaching we’re noticing the swell of the ocean boiling up from that,” NJ State Police Trooper Rick Pokorny said.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg I think we can expect a lot more [Friday] and [Friday] night,” Porkorny said.
Earl’s ascent has also led to some rough surf along the Jersey Shore.
CBS 2′s Scott Rapoport reported that several areas of Manasquan Beach had already been red flagged – barring people from swimming there. The danger is a result of rip currents – brought on by the impending arrival of Earl.
Even if Earl stays well offshore, it will kick up rough surf and dangerous rip currents up and down the coast through Labor Day weekend.
“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.”
Suffolk County officials decided to close all ocean-based beaches Thursday afternoon.
The possibility of the impending hurricane means travel trouble looms for airline passengers at local airports.
Delays and cancellations are expected at airports up and down the East Coast this weekend. Continental said its hub at Newark Liberty Airport will likely be affected by the storm.
Several airlines are now allowing passengers to reschedule their trips and avoid the hurricane without a penalty – including Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Airways, AirTran and Frontier.