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(11 a.m. EDT) -- After hammering islands in the Eastern Caribbean on Monday, Hurricane Earl is now surging toward the East Coast of the United States, where it is expected to bring heavy winds and rain in time for Labor Day weekend travel.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is encouraging interests from the Carolinas northward to New England to monitor the progress of Earl, which is currently a Category Four storm with maximum sustained winds of 135 miles per hour. A hurricane watch could be required for portions of the mid-Atlantic later today, and the outer bands of the storm may reach the coast of North Carolina as early as Thursday night. Meanwhile, The Washington Post is reporting that "with Earl expected to impact the East Coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is deploying teams from the Carolinas to Maine in anticipation of storm surges, high winds and flooding."
There are no itinerary changes to announce for cruise ships with upcoming departures from East Coast homeports such as Boston, Manhattan and Cape Liberty, New Jersey -- but lines are closely monitoring the situation. Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and NCL have all announced storm-related itinerary changes for Caribbean cruises departing late last week, this past weekend and Monday.
According to the NHC's 11 a.m. update, the storm, the fifth in the 2010 Atlantic season, is moving west-northwest at a 14 m.p.h. clip, and is currently located some 205 miles east of Grand Turk and 1,070 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The center of the Earl is expected to move over the open Atlantic east of Turks & Caicos later tonight. Turks & Caicos and islands in the southeastern Bahamas remain on high alert.
In the aftermath of Earl's Caribbean offensive, first-hand reports continue to appear on sites like StormCarib and Twitter, where Caribbean residents are posting photos and updates.
DearMissMermaid, a regular poster on Storm Carib, reprinted a note from a honeymooning couple on Virgin Gorda: "...blogs from around the islands are reporting significant damages due to high winds, rain and rising sea levels. Power is out across the islands and [there is] no potable water." In the U.S. Virgin island of St. Thomas, "Things look good," posted Storm Carib member Ronnie. "Downed trees. One capsized boat that I can see. Slight wind."
The Associated Press is reporting (via ABC News) that in Antigua, "at least one home was destroyed but there were no reports of serious injuries."
NBC news reported yesterday that "residents on the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten said Earl brought rain, wind and pounding seas on the coast, causing power outages and knocking down trees. There were also some reports of homes losing their roofs."
Cruise Ship Itinerary Changes
Carnival Cruise Lines changed the itinerary for Carnival Dream, which departed from Port Canaveral on Friday. Instead of sailing an Eastern Caribbean cruise with stops in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, the ship is sailing a Western Caribbean route to Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya.
Carnival Pride, which left from Baltimore Sunday, will no longer visit Grand Turk on Wednesday as originally planned. The itinerary will now include Port Canaveral (Wednesday), Nassau (Thursday) and Freeport (Friday).
Carnival Victory is sailing a revised itinerary. The ship has canceled its call in St. Maarten and changed the order of some of its ports. Victory's new itinerary sequence is St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitt's and St. Thomas. The ship will return to San Juan on Sunday as originally scheduled.
Royal Caribbean has altered the itineraries of Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas.
Monarch of the Seas, which departed from Port Canaveral yesterday, was unable to call on CocoCay, Bahamas today. The ship will now sail directly to Nassau were it will stay until midnight Wednesday, September 1. The ship will spend Thursday at sea as it returns to Port Canaveral on Friday, as scheduled.
Majesty of the Seas, which departed from Miami yesterday, will now extend its port call in Key West, Florida today until early tomorrow morning. It will spend the remainder of Wednesday at sea and call on Nassau on Thursday, September 2. The ship will return to Miami on Friday as scheduled.
Enchantment, which left Baltimore last Thursday, called on San Juan on Sunday. On Monday, it visited Samana, Dominican Republic instead of St. Thomas as originally scheduled. It will stop in Labadee today (Tuesday) and spend Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at sea as it returns to Baltimore on Saturday.
Oasis will be unable to make its scheduled port calls in St. Thomas on Tuesday and St. Maarten on Wednesday. Instead, the ship made an extended visit to Nassau on Sunday, will spend Monday and Tuesday at sea, and call on Costa Maya on Wednesday and Cozumel on Thursday. It will then spend Friday at sea as it returns to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, as scheduled.
Freedom of the Seas, which left Port Canaveral on August 29, will be unable to make its scheduled port calls to St. Thomas on Wednesday and St. Maarten on Thursday. The ship called on CocoCay, Bahamas on Monday, as scheduled, will spend Tuesday at sea, and call in Grand Cayman on Wednesday. On Thursday, Freedom will visit Cozumel. The ship will then spend Friday and Saturday at sea as it returns to Port Canaveral on Sunday as scheduled.
NCL has changed the itinerary for Norwegian Epic, which left from Miami Saturday. The ship will now call in Cozumel and Roatan in place of St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Epic's call in Nassau on Friday has been extended.
Because of the adverse weather, Norwegian Jewel did not stop at Great Stirrup Cay today and instead docked in Nassau a day early. The ship will stay in Nassau overnight, and depending on the path of Hurricane Earl, there is a possibility that the ship will need to leave Nassau early tomorrow morning.
Representatives from Princess Cruises and Disney Cruise Line say that there are no changes for their respective ships. Emerald Princess is sailing in the Western Caribbean (outside the current scope of the storm); Disney Wonder is sailing a Bahamas and Florida cruise.
Weather Outlook: Next Affected Ships & Ports
According to the NHC, tropical storm conditions are expected to gradually subside in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands today. Tropical storm conditions should materialize in Turks & Caicos later today, and topical storm conditions are possible in the southeastern Bahamas over the next 24 hours.
Of growing importance, the latest NHC projections have Hurricane Earl brushing the East Coast of the United States and Canada on Friday and Saturday. The outer bands of the storm are currently forecast to reach the coast of North Carolina late Thursday night or early Friday morning, and the storm is then expected to move roughly parallel to the East Coast on Friday and Saturday.
We'll keep you posted on cruise ships departing from East Coast homeports.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor
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Hurricane Earl East Coast Bound; Still Impacting Caribbean Cruises