Hurricane Earl moving across the northern Leeward IslandsAugust 30th, 2010 - 5:20 pm ICT by BNO News
MIAMI (BNO NEWS) — Hurricane Earl, now a category two storm, was moving across the northern Leeward Islands on early Monday morning and is forecast to affect the U.S. East coast later this week, forecasters said.
Forecasters at the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center had been following the system since last Monday when it emerged off the African coast since. Since then, it became more organized and eventually developed into a tropical storm and eventually a hurricane.
As of 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), Earl is located about 75 kilometers (50 miles) east-northeast of the island of St. Martin, or 275 kilometers (170 miles) east of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Forecasters at the Miami-based U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Earl has maximum sustained winds near 105 miles (165 kilometers) per hour, and higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast in the next hours, and Earl is expected to become a major hurricane on late Monday or early Tuesday.
“The official forecast is similar to the previous one, and shows Earl reaching major hurricane status in the next 12 to 24 hours, followed by a broad peak in intensity between 36 and 72 hours,” said forecaster Brennan. “After that time, Earl should begin to weaken as it moves over cooler waters and encounters higher vertical wind shear.”
The NHC said Earl is moving toward the west-northwest near 24 kilometers (15 miles) per hour, with a turn toward the northwest expected on Tuesday. “The center of Earl will pass near or over the northernmost Leeward Islands this morning, and near the Virgin Islands later this evening,” Brennan said.
Brennan said hurricane force winds extend outward up to 85 kilometers (50 miles) from the center of Earl, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 280 kilometers (175 miles).
As a result, a hurricane warning has been issued for Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy. A hurricane warning is also in effect for St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Additionally, a hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico including some parts of the islands of Culebra and Vieques. In some regions of Culebra and Vieques, a tropical storm warning is in effect.
“Hurricane conditions are now spreading into the northern Leeward Islands and will spread westward into the Virgin Islands later today,” Brennan said. “Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread over Puerto Rico today, with hurricane conditions possible this evening and tonight.
The storm surge is expected to raise water levels by as much as 2 to 4 feet above ground level primarily near the coast in areas of onshore wind within the hurricane warning earl, Brennan added, who said a 1 to 3 feet rise is expected in the tropical storm warning area. “The surge will be accompanied by large and dangerous battering waves.”
Earl is also forecast to produce heavy rainfall over the Leeward Islands, where 4 to 8 inches is expected. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico could see maximum amounts of up to 12 inches, especially over higher elevations. “These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.”
Starting late Thursday or early Friday morning, Early may begin to affect the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina to the north. By that time, Earl is forecast to be a category three hurricane.
But Brennan said it is not yet known how badly the U.S. East Coast may be hit, if it all. “This is a good time to remind everyone that NHC average track forecast errors are 200 to 300 miles (321 to 482 kilometers) at days 4 and 5. Given this uncertainty, it is too soon to determine what - if any - parts of the U.S. East Coast might see direct impacts from Earl later this week,” he said.
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