Hurricane watch issued for NC coast as Earl approaches

MIAMI (WCSC/AP) - A hurricane watch has been issued for parts of the North Carolina coast Tuesday afternoon.

A hurricane watch is in effect for north of Surf City to Duck, North Carolina, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.

Earl is moving northwest at 14 miles per hour and is expected to stay on that track Wednesday with a gradual turn to the north-northwest thereafter. The core of Hurricane Earl will be moving over the open Atlantic, passing well east of the Turks and Caicos islands Tuesday night and northeast of the Bahamas Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 135 mph with higher gusts. Earl is forecast to maintain category four strength for the next day or two.

Islanders wary of a possible blow from powerful Hurricane Earl pulled boats ashore and packed supermarkets on the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday as the Category 4 storm howled over open seas toward the eastern United States.

The hurricane, with winds of 135 mph, was expected to remain over the open ocean east of this British territory before turning north and running parallel to the U.S. coast, potentially reaching the North Carolina coastal region by Friday. It was projected then to curve back out to sea, perhaps swiping New England or far-eastern Canada.

"There is still considerable uncertainty as to how close the hurricane will come to the U.S. East Coast," the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a bulletin Tuesday.

Earl delivered a glancing blow to several small Caribbean islands on Monday, tearing roofs off homes and cutting electricity to people in Anguilla, Antigua, and St. Maarten. Cruise ships were diverted and flights canceled across the region. But there were no reports of death or injury.

The Hurricane Center says it's too early to say what effect Earl would have in the U.S., but warned it could at least kick up dangerous rip currents. A surfer died in Florida and a Maryland swimmer had been missing since Saturday in waves spawned by former Hurricane Danielle, which weakened to a tropical storm yesterday far out in the north Atlantic.

Large waves, very heavy surf and dangerous rip currents are expected later this week on the South Carolina coast.

Tropical Storm Fiona continues heading west and is located east of the Lesser Antilles. Earl has been moving steadily north-westward and that motion should continue until it begins a bit more of a northward motion taking it east of the Bahamas on Wednesday.

It looks like the majority of Earl should stay east of the United States coast, however if there are any changes to a trough of low pressure late week that is forecast to turn the storm north, a significant change to the track forecast would be made.

At this point, Earl should give the Lowcountry nothing more than some high surf, beach erosion and rip currents. As Earl passes off the North Carolina coast on Thursday night it may be a very strong, Category 3 or 4 hurricane. will broadcast a hurricane forum live on the web beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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