Forecast keeps Earl offshore
This morning's forecast from the National Hurricane Center continues to keep Hurricane Earl off the mid-Atlantic coast when it arrives there on Friday. None of the forecast computer models bring the storm's center to a direct landfall.
There is also some indication that, as the storm moves into increased wind shear, and over cooler waters, its strength is likely to diminish from the dangerous 135-mph, Category 4 rating it holds Tuesday morning.
Even so, forecasters are advising interests along the U.S. East Coast from Cape Hatteras to New England to continue to monitor Earl as the storm pulls away from the Northern Leeward Islands. Strong surf and dangerous rip currents continue to be a real hazard as the weekend approaches.
Earl's center was located this morning about 150 miles north northwest of Puerto Rico, moving to the west northwest at 13 mph. A gradual turn to the northwest was expected today, with that direction continuing through Wednesday.
The forecast storm track carries Earl to a point just off Cape Hatteras by early Friday, and off Delmarva later in the day. Central winds by that point are still expected to retain "major" Cat. 3 power. Successive tracks have seen the storm's most likely path creep slightly to the west.
But the official expectation is that Earl will stay offshore as it runs up the coast, funneled between high pressure spinning clockwise to the storm's east, and a low-pressure trough moving into the northeastern U.S. The latter system is forecast to bring Maryland cooler weather by the weekend, but exactly where the two systems will steer Earl remains unclear:
"SUBTLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THESE TWO FEATURES WILL BE THE DETERMINING FACTOR...A QUESTION WHICH HAS NOT BEEN SETTLED YET."
The other issue to keep in mind is how broad an area Earl, and its effects, will cover as it tracks up the coast. The National Hurricane Center forecasters say the storm's worst effects will be somewhat limited:
"GUIDANCE KEEPS A TIGHT GRADIENT OF THE TROPICAL SYSTEM/S EFFECTS AS IT MOVES PARALLEL TO
THE COAST...ONCE IT MOVES NORTHEAST OF CAPE HATTERAS. THE WESTERNMOST
EXTENT OF THE TROPICAL EFFECTS WOULD BE LIMITED TO THE COASTAL
AREAS ALONG THE ATLANTIC SHORES FROM THE VA TIDEWATER TO SOUTHERN NEW
That would spare most of Maryland. On the other hand, much of the state could use a hefty does of tropical moisture. If the forecast is correct, only the coastal counties would get the full benefit.