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Hurricane Earl barreling across Atlantic

The timing of a strong low-pressure trough moving off the East Coast will determine whether Earl's hurricane-force winds remain offshore or whip states from N.C. to Maine.

 Hurricane Earl in the northeast Gulf of
Mexico on September 2, 1998


Hurricane Earl grew into a powerful Category 4 storm Monday and put a massive swath of the East Coast under that uncomfortable ``cone of uncertainty'' for the first time this season.
Florida wasn't in it. But states from North Carolina to Maine were, as the National Hurricane Center continued nudging Earl's track closer toward the coast with the projected path posted at 5 p.m. skirting the Bahamas and -- by Thursday -- bending precariously close to North Carolina's Outer Banks and later, Cape Cod, Mass.
Right behind, though of far less concern, was newly named Tropical Storm Fiona.

Hurricane Earl in Carribean
Forecasters still expect 135-mph Earl to turn more north, then northeast, away from the U.S. coast -- but timing remains dicey and a small shift in track could mean the difference between getting ruffled or seriously raked.
``We feel more comfortable down here than they would up in the mid-Atlantic states,'' said Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the center in West Miami-Dade.
Pasch said some early computer modeling runs had miscalculated atmospheric currents steering Earl, with a subtropical high-pressure ridge proving more persistent than expected in pushing Earl west. A trough driving off the East Coast should block Earl's dangerous core from making landfall but if it arrives late or weak, there is a chance that stronger winds and waves could sweep the coast.
Earl moved north of the British Virgin Islands Monday afternoon as the storm began the northwest turn forecasters had predicted. The center posted tropical storm warnings for the Turks and Caicos and a storm watch for the southeastern Bahamas.
In the Caribbean, the Associated Press reported Earl caused power outages and flooding and damaged homes on Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and St. Maarten.
At El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, people lined up at the reception desk, the lights occasionally flickering, to check out and head to the airport. There, more delays awaited.
John and Linda Helton of Boulder, Colo., opted to ride out the storm. The couple, celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary, finished a cruise Sunday and planned to spend three days in Puerto Rico.
The National Weather Service warned that Earl will likely worsen rip currents that caused dangerous weekend swimming conditions along the Atlantic coast. The AP reported more than 250 people in Ocean City, Md., and roughly 70 on Florida's central Atlantic coast were rescued from rip currents generated in part by the earlier passage of Danielle, which had faded to a tropical storm Monday in the North Atlantic.
The Weather Service in Miami also issued rip-current and small-craft advisories, with Atlantic seas projected at 6 to 8 feet for the next several days.
Tropical Storm Fiona, meanwhile, was barreling west at 24 mph in Earl's wake. As it closed ground on the stronger hurricane ahead, Fiona could begin falling apart, Pasch said.

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