Tweet (5:30 a.m. EDT) -- A slightly weakened yet still potent Hurricane Earl continues its pursuit of U.S. East Coast, where it is expected to bring heavy winds and rain, and trigger huge waves and dangerous rip currents in time for Labor Day weekend travel. In anticipation of the storm's U.S. arrival, a number of cruise lines have altered itineraries for ships on Canada and New England cruises, and vessels based in northeast U.S. homeports like Baltimore, Boston and New York.
Earl passed near North Carolina's Outer Banks late last night and MSNBC reported that hundreds lost power when the storm's gusts and rain churned over the coast.
The center of Category Two Hurricane Earl, however, is still expected to stay offshore as the cyclone twists up the East Coast, but forecasters say that even a small change in course could result in the storm coming ashore.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), it should approach southeastern New England Friday evening. Reuters is reporting that the head of the NHC said on Wednesday that he was "highly confident Hurricane Earl would veer to the northeast starting late on Thursday, which should keep the worst of the storm from the U.S." Even so, the governors of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts declared states of emergency, and cities and towns along the coast are bracing for impact.
According to the NHC's 5 a. m. advisory, Earl, the Atlantic season's fifth named storm, continues to weaken, and it is now packing maximum sustained winds at 105 miles per hour, down from a peak of 145 m.p.h. reported on Thursday. It is expected to further weaken today. Earl is moving toward the north at a 18 m.p.h. clip, and is currently located 85 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and 465 miles south-southwest of Nantucket, Massachusetts. A turn to the north-northeast is expected on Friday.
Storm warnings and watches are currently in place along the East Coast from North Carolina to New Brunswick, Canada, a swath that includes Martha's Vineyard, Boston, Long Island and the Jersey Shore. (For specific information on watches and warnings, please visit the NHC's Web site.)
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes, Impacted Ports
Updated: Hurricane Earl Changes: Canada & New England Cruises, Northeast Homeports
Updated: Damage Report: Caribbean Ports in the Aftermath of Hurricane Earl
Hurricane Earl Changes: Caribbean Cruises
Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports
The latest NHC projections have Hurricane Earl brushing the East Coast of the United States and Canada on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The first tendrils of the storm have already reached North Carolina, and Earl is then expected to pick up speed and move roughly parallel to the coast on Friday and Saturday.
A number of cruise lines have already made itinerary changes ahead of Earl, but we'll keep you posted should there be additional deviations.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor, Cruise Critic
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Powerful Hurricane Earl Nearing East Coast; Updated Cruise Impact
September 3, 2010