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N.C. island evacuations start as Earl nears East Coast
Question of the Day
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Powerful Hurricane Earl spun toward the East Coast on Wednesday, driving tourists from North Carolina’s vacation islands and threatening to bring damaging winds and waves all along the Atlantic seaboard through Labor Day weekend.
Visitors took ferries off of Ocracoke Island and were told to leave neighboring Cape Hatteras in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and federal authorities have warned people along the coast to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
Earl’s effect on the East Coast will depend on when it makes its expected turn to the northeast.
A later-than-expected turn could mean the storm’s eye makes landfall on the extreme eastern tip of North Carolina as a Category 3 storm late Thursday or early Friday.
If that happens, hurricane-force winds also could reach New York’s Long Island and Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Even if it doesn’t, dangerous rip currents are likely to be felt from the Carolinas north.
Virginia Gov. Robert F. 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.
Even the U.S. Navy was altering plans, hustling to get the USS Cole back in port in Norfolk before the bad weather arrives. The destroyer wasn’t supposed to come home from a seven-month deployment until later this week.
In Virginia Beach, where more than 20,000 long-distance runners, their families and friends are due to arrive this weekend for the Dodge Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon, organizers were keeping a close eye on the weather, but few participants had backed out.
“This is definitely on our radar, but at this time it looks like Sunday’s half-marathon will take place as scheduled,” Dan Cruz said.
Earl was still more than 700 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras on Wednesday afternoon, with top sustained winds of 125 mph. 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,” Mr. Feltgen said.
The only evacuation orders so far affected parts of the Outer Banks, thin strips of beach and land that face the open Atlantic.
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