Thursday, September 02, 2010

Earl heads for Outer Banks

8:30AM Update: Environment Canada has posted A Tropical Storm Watch for Yarmouth, Shelburne and Queens Counties in southeastern Nova Scotia. More information to follow today on my lunch hour.

The image above is from the Island Free Press (double click for more detail). It is an area I am so familiar with from my visits over the last 18 years, that I can almost see my car in that line up to leave Ocracoke Island and head north to Hatteras and the mainland. It was taken by Don Bowers last night as vacationers began to evacuate the 13.5 mile island. The narrow road you see in the photo is the north to south NC 12 with the Atlantic on the right and Pamlico sound on the left.

A wide variety of watches and warnings are in effect this morning for coastal areas from North Carolina north into Nova Scotia. Earl has begun to make a slight northward motion and is expected to approach Hatteras Island late today. Forecasters are confident the center will remain offshore, which means the strongest winds will remain offshore as well to the east of the center. However pounding surf and a storm surge of 3-5 feet will affect the low lying barrier islands of the Outer Banks. This will be plenty to cause erosion and major flooding along US 12. Evacuations have been underway since early yesterday with 35,000 moving inland from the Banks.

This morning it is a pleasant 24C in Buxton on Hatteras Island, ironically the same temperature as in Montreal 1600km to the north. The tropical air mass is well established along the entire east coast. Also visible on Buxton radar is the outer bands of Earl. Conditions will continue to deteriorate today with seas and winds increasing. The storm will pass east of the Cape tonight and up the east coast towards Nova Scotia late Friday. Earl is a Category 4 storm about 400 miles from the Carolina coast.

The storm should pass within 75 miles of the coast. Winds are currently at 145mph and a slow weakening process will begin within the next 24 hours as the storm races off to the northeast. With the storm off the coast most of the weather with Earl in the US will be confined to the immediate coast. That will change in Nova Scotia as Earl makes landfall there, but the storm will have weakened to a Cat 1 by then. More on that as we make it through today.

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