Hurricane Earl reaches Category 4 status

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Hurricane Earl strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane Monday afternoon as it steams ahead towards Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Earl is lashing the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and strong winds Monday. It is causing flooding in low-lying parts of the Leeward Islands and emptying the streets and beaches as people wait out the storm.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami says Earl, which formed Sunday, already has sustained winds of 110 mph and is likely to keep growing. A hurricane center specialist says Earl could become a Category 4 hurricane later in the week.

The storm has been moving steadily westward and that motion should continue until it begins more of a northwest motion, taking it north of Puerto Rico and east of the Bahamas on Wednesday.

Right now, Hurricane Earl should stay east of the United States coast, however, if there are any changes to a trough of low pressure late in the week that is forecast to turn the storm north, we could see a significant change to the storm's track.

At this point, Hurricane Earl should give the Lowcountry nothing more than some high surf and beach erosion. As Earl passes off the North Carolina coast on Thursday, it could be a very strong, Category 4 hurricane.

In the Lowcountry, the week starts with some great weather ahead as high pressure takes control. Look for a few clouds early then mostly sunny weather for the afternoon Monday as highs top out around 90 degrees for most areas.

Beaches will stay in the mid 80's as onshore winds will keep things breezy. Rip currents will be possible all week. Monday night, the weather stays clear and mild with lows in the upper 60's.

Sun and warmer temperatures are expected each day through Friday.

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