Photos: Hurricane Earl

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  1. A city worker pulls back after cutting a section of a downed tree in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday, Sept. 4. after Tropical Storm Earl had moved through the province. (Paul Darrow / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Waves from hurricane Earl pound the coast at Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia, on Sept. 4. Police closed roads leading to the iconic lighthouse as a safety precaution, keeping the curious away from the dangerous rocks. Heavy rain, high winds and surf battered the region. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. From left in the canoe, Lexi Olson, 12, Petunia the pug, Corey Olsen, 9, and Amber Racette, 13, and in the water, Bennett Hartley, 7, and sister Ella, all of Brewster, Mass., enjoy what the neighborhood jokingly calls "Lake Leona" after Leona Terrace was flooded by Tropical Storm Earl in Brewster, Mass., on Cape Cod, Sept. 4. According to residents, the road frequently floods during major storms, but this is the highest they've seen it. (Julia Cumes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Traffic backs up on the Bonner Bridge near Nags Head, N.C., on Sept. 4, as people return to Hatteras Island following mandatory evacuations of the barrier island for Hurricane Earl. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Local resident Russell Lowe kayaks along a beach road during Hurricane Earl in Nags Head, North Carolina Friday, Sept. 3. (Richard Clement / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A metal roof is seen on the ground after winds from Hurricane Earl passed through overnight in Nags Head, N.C., Friday. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Utilities workers try to support power lines that were blown sideways from winds produced by Hurricane Earl in Nags Head, N.C., Friday. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. People including Ben Sharp, second from left, of Lewes, Del., watch weather from Hurricane Earl start to move into Rehoboth Beach, Del. on Friday. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. R.V. Hodge removes sandbags from a storefront in Beaufort, N.C., as residents return to business as usual after Hurricane Earl brushed past the North Carolina coast Friday. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man uses an umbrella while riding his bike as Hurricane Earl churns up the coast in Virginia Beach, Va., on Friday, Sept. 3. (Evan Vucci / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The surf pounds the Oceana Pier as Hurricane Earl heads toward the eastern coast in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 2. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A photo of Hurricane Earl's eye taken from the HDVis camera on the underside of NASA's unmanned Global Hawk aircraft. Global Hawk captured this photo from an altitude of 60,000 ft. on Thursday morning. The Global Hawk is one of three aircraft involved in the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment to better understand how tropical storms form and develop into major hurricanes. (NOAA / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Town workers, from right, Jose Pineda, Travis Thompson, and Cager Jones, install barriers on the boardwalk as the storm heads toward the eastern coast in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Thursday. (Chuck Burton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. This Thursday image shows Hurricane Earl closing in on a large part of the Eastern Seabord on Thursday. The strongest Atlantic storm of 2010 is on course to hit the coast of North Carolina and then move north. (NOAA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Vehicles sit in traffic on the Croatan Highway near Southern Shores, N.C. as people evacuate the Outer Banks area on Thursday. Authorities issued a mandatory evacuation notice as forecasters expect Earl to pass through the area late Thursday night, into Friday morning. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Tina McGory of Columbia, S.C. loads up her car Thursday to leave her rented Kitty Hawk, N.C. beach house early due to the approaching storm. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. In Kitty Hawk Thursday, this front end loader dumps sand on the beach to help prevent inland flooding. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A surfer enjoys the increasing size of the waves as Hurricane Earl approaches the Outer Banks city of Kill Devil Hills, N.C. on Wednesday. The hurricane is expected to work its way up the Eastern seaboard. (Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A sign that reads "Go away Earl" outside a hotel is seen as the sun sets in Buxton on Wednesday. (Chuck Liddy / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Residents boarded up beach homes, like these in Hatteras, all along the Outer Banks on Wednesday. (Gerry Broome / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A boat is battered by waves in Sopers Hole during the passage of Hurricane Earl near Tortola, British Virgin Islands on Monday, Aug. 30. The hurricane was expected to remain over the open ocean before turning north and running parallel to the U.S. coast, potentially reaching the North Carolina coastal region by late Thursday or early Friday. (Todd Vansickle / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Astronaut Douglas Wheelock photographed Hurricane Earl aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday. Wheelock has been posting photos of the season's Atlantic storms on Twitter. (Douglas H. Wheelcock / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Luis Colon uses an umbrella to shield himself from rain and wind caused by the approaching Hurricane Earl in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Monday. The storm battered some islands across the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and roof-ripping winds Monday. (Andres Leighton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Meteorologist Jessica Schauer works on tracking Hurricane Earl at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. on Monday. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A boy takes cover from a wave caused by the approaching storm in Fajardo, Puerto Rico on Monday. (Ricardo Arduengo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Heavy rains caused a nearby river to overflow, flooding this house in Potters Village, on the outskirts of St. John's, Antigua on Monday. (Johnny Jno-baptiste / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Army soldiers help to remove a fallen tree at the village of Liberta Monday after Hurricane Earl passed near Antigua. (Johnny Jno-baptiste / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 9/3/2010 4:25:28 AM ET 2010-09-03T08:25:28

Hurricane Earl's powerful gusts and driving rains were churning over the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the dark of night, leaving residents and officials waiting for daybreak to see how much damage the storm's winds and waves could do.

The effects of the storm were also starting to be felt in southeastern Virginia, with National Weather Service meterologist Jeremy Schulz saying early Friday morning that rain bands stretched about 140 miles inland in North Carolina and up to the southern tip of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.

Hundreds of people along the North Carolina coast lost power because of the storm.

Earl weakened all day Thursday, winding down from a Category 4 storm with winds of 140 mph to a Category 2 with winds at 105.

But the storm still packed enough of a punch to send rain sideways and shake signs on the Outer Banks. On Nags Head, the tops of small trees bent in the howling gusts and beach grass was whipping back and forth on dunes leading to the ocean.

Sustained winds of about 30 mph were whipping the North Carolina coast. The U.S. Coast Guard station at Hatteras reported a gust of 67 mph just before midnight.

Progress Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said there were 226 power outages in the company's coverage area early Friday morning between New Bern and Morehead City, southeast of the Outer Banks.  At points Thursday, more than 300 customers were without power, but some was restored.

Power company Dominion reported on its website that about 340 customers in Dare County were without power. The county includes some of the Outer Banks islands.

Brooks said the number of outages have stayed low because the strongest elements of the storm were staying off shore.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Collins said early Friday that Earl had produced little storm surge and only minor flooding in some coastal counties. Predictions of storm surges between 2 and 4 feet might be generous, he said.

Waves of up to 18 feet were predicted to smash into the North Carolina coast, leading to beach erosion and roadway overwash on the Outer Banks.

On Hatteras Island, the end of an already dilapidated wooden pier in Frisco collapsed after being battered by high surf Thursday, the Charlotte Observer newspaper reported. The pier had been closed to the public because of past storm damage.

It was the start of at least 24 hours of stormy, windy weather along the East Coast.

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Hurricane-force winds extended 70 miles from the eye, while Tropical storm winds extended 205 miles out.

At 2 a.m. EDT Friday, Earl's center was 85 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras as the storm moved north-northeast at about 18 mph.

'What Mother Nature can do'
On Hatteras Island, wind-driven rain began shaking road signs around 9:30 p.m.

"It's interesting to me to just see what Mother Nature can do," said Jay Lopez, 36, of Frisco, as the wind howled through Buxton.

Federal, state and local authorities were waiting for daybreak to begin coastal damage patrols.

The Coast Guard planned an airplane flyover of the Outer Banks and prepared for search-and-rescue helicopter flights.

The emergency management chief for one coastal North Carolina county said that a high tide and the storm combined to wash over a portion of the Outer Banks highway N.C. 12 near Rodanthe.

Dare County Emergency Management Director Sandy Sanderson said it was closed, but that the overwash had been expected and nobody was out driving in the storm.

Collins said the eye of the hurricane was expected to get about 100 miles east of the Outer Banks.

Earlier, forecasters said it would get as close as 55 miles and protected the coast would be lashed by hurricane-force winds with a storm surge of up to 5 feet and waves 18 feet high.

"It's probably going to get a little hairy. We're prepared for it. My biggest concern is the ocean, not the wind," said Karen Denson Miller, who decided to stay on Hatteras Island with friends.

'This is a day of action'
During its march up the Atlantic, Earl was expected snarl travelers' Labor Day weekend plans and strike a second forceful blow to vacation homes and cottages on Long Island, Nantucket Island and Cape Cod, which could get gusts up to 100 mph.

Much of New England should expect strong, gusty winds much like a nor'easter, along with fallen trees and downed power lines, forecasters said.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on Thursday said people shouldn't wait for the next forecast to act. "This is a day of action. Conditions are going to deteriorate rapidly," he said.

Shelters were open in inland North Carolina, and officials on Nantucket Island, Mass., planned to set up a shelter at a high school on Friday.

North Carolina shut down ferry service between the Outer Banks and the mainland. Boats were being pulled from the water in the Northeast, and lobstermen in Maine set their traps out in deeper water to protect them.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri declared a state of emergency. Similar declarations have also been made in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

President Obama late Thursday signed an emergency declaration authorizing federal disaster relief efforts for southeastern Massachusetts.  He declared an emergency for North Carolina on Wednesday.

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The declarations authorize the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the two areas.

A slow winding down was expected to continue as the storm moved into cooler waters, but forecasters warned the size of the storm's wind field was increasing, similar to what happened when Hurricane Katrina approached the Gulf Coast five years ago.

"It will be bigger. The storm won't be as strong, but they spread out as they go north and the rain will be spreading from New England," National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said.

Newsweek: The lie of the storm; unsafe myths about hurricanes, lightning and tornadoes

"We're preparing for the worst," Nantucket assistant town manager Gregg Tivnan said Thursday.

Travel disruptions
The storm is likely to disrupt travel as people try to squeeze in a few more days of summer vacation over Labor Day.

Continental Airlines canceled 50 departures from Newark on its Continental Connection and Continental Express routes along the East Coast, beginning Thursday night.

Other airlines were watching the forecast and waiving fees for changing flights. Amtrak canceled trains to Newport News, near Virginia's coast, from Richmond, Va., and Washington. Ferry operators across the Northeast warned their service would likely be interrupted.

And the Army Corps of Engineers warned it would have to close the two bridges connecting Cape Cod to the rest of Massachusetts if winds got above 70 mph.

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Clayton Smith and his colleagues at a yacht servicing company in New England scrambled to Nantucket to pull boats to safety, hoping to get about 40 vessels out of the water in two days.

"Complacency is a bad thing," Smith said. "It's better to be safe than sorry." Slideshow: Eastern Seaboard endures Earl (on this page)

Behind Earl, Tropical Storm Fiona was whirling north with 50 mph winds about 360 miles south-southwest of Bermuda, where a tropical storm warning was in effect. Gaston weakened farther out in the Atlantic.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Earl's fury unfurls in Atlantic

  1. Transcript of: Earl's fury unfurls in Atlantic

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: First, instead, of great urgency to folks up and down the East Coast , Hurricane Earl , Category 3 . It's heading north. It's a storm as big as the state of California . Ocean waves at the center of this have been 29 feet high. The storm hasn't jogged as much or as soon as forecasters had hoped. That's bad news for the coast of North Carolina , first off, where it will arrive in the next 12-hour window. Our team is in place. We begin with the storm, where it is, where it's headed. Veteran hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross at The Weather Channel with more. Bryan , what's the last update telling you?

    BRYAN NORCROSS reporting: All right. We've got the radar Bryan , and good evening. There's your hurricane, and there is the business part of the hurricane. That's the eye, now within view of land-based radar, and it looks like it will be in the vicinity of Cape Hatteras about eight hours from now. The worst part of it right here on the northwest side, and it's a very, very close call where there -- whether they're going to get that on Cape Hatteras . But our concern is actually more for the future, for tomorrow. Let's take a look at what we expect to happen as we go into tomorrow. And we're looking at Cape Cod and we're looking at Long Island . These are the hurricane-force winds that are expected to expand out and cover more of the Atlantic . And look at that. They may very well affect all of Cape Cod and the islands off Cape Cod with extremely gusty winds, high surf, and hurricane conditions expected there. And the end of Long Island is going to get clipped. So it's going to be a very close call for much of the East Coast .

    WILLIAMS: All right, Bryan , thanks. We'll have all of it covered. We'll keep talking to you,

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