Earl now a "major" hurricane at 120 mph
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said today that Hurricane Earl has reached "major" (Cat. 3) hurricane status, with top sustained winds at 120 mph. Further strengthening is expected.
UPDATE: Late this afternoon Earl was upgraded again to a Cat. 4 storm, with top sustained winds of 135 mph. More strengthening was expected. The storm was moving away from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Earlier post reumes below.
The storm continues to pose an immediate threat of hurricane-force winds, battering weaves, 3- to 5-foot storm surge and up to a foot of rain to U.S. possessions in the northeast Caribbean, and could brush the U. S. East Coast later this week. Here's how some of the models spread the storm track.
At last check, Earl's center was located about 95 miles east northeast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was moving toward the west northwest at 15 mph. Here are the watches and warnings in effect late this (Monday) morning:
"A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* SAINT MARTIN AND SAINT BARTHELEMY
* ST. MAARTEN...SABA...AND ST. EUSTATIUS
* BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
* U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
* PUERTO RICAN ISLANDS OF CULEBRA AND VIEQUES
"A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* PUERTO RICO
"A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* ANTIGUA...BARBUDA...MONTSERRAT...ST. KITTS...AND NEVIS
* PUERTO RICO
"A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
The storm's forecast track would carry it to the north and west in the next few days. Moving around the western edge of a zone of high pressure in the Atlantic, and east of a low-pressure trough forecast to move off the continent late this week.
The question is where, precisely, those systems will steer the storm, and how close they will allow it to get to the mainland.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say they have had to adjust the track westward several times so far - not good. Then they add this note:
"THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT NHC AVERAGE TRACK
FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 300 MILES AT DAYS 4 AND 5. GIVEN THIS
UNCERTAINTY...IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE U.S.
EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL."
It's also important to note that, even if Earl stays well offshore, it will pass us as a Cat. 3 or 4 storm. Surf conditions at the beaches this weekend will likely be even more dangerous than they were this past weekend, when Ocean City lifeguards had to perform 250 rescues. One swimmer is still missing. And that's just Ocean City. Conditions were similar all along the mid-Atlantic coast.
For more on Earl, check out Foot's Forecast, the student weather service that did so well during last winter's blizzards. They're on the tropical forecast, too, this summer.
Taking a cruise in hurricane season? Check this from CruiseCritic.com before you sail:
"One of the ships impacted left out of Baltimore today…
"Carnival Pride, which left from Baltimore today, will no longer visit Grand Turk on Wednesday as originally planned. The itinerary will now include Port Canaveral (Wednesday), Nassau (Thursday) and Freeport (Friday).
Hurricane Earl, the fifth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season, is strengthening as it closes in on the islands of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. Numerous Caribbean islands are on high alert, and in anticipation of the storm, Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and NCL have announced itinerary changes. FURTHER INFORMATION…http://www.cruisecritic.com/news/hurricane.cfm "
Royal Caribbean has altered the itineraries of Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas. Enchantment, which left Baltimore on Thursday, will call on San Juan tomorrow. On Monday, it will visit Samana, Dominican Republic instead of St. Thomas, as originally scheduled. It will stop in Labadee on Tuesday and spend Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at sea as it returns to Baltimore on Saturday.