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updated 8/31/2010 3:05:13 PM ET 2010-08-31T19:05:13

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.

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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."

Related: Stay up-to-date with further changes

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 mph clip, and is currently located some 205 miles east of Grand Turk and 1,070 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. 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.

Interactive: Hurricane Tracker (on this page)

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 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.

Video: Earl rages in Caribbean, swirls toward U.S. (on this page)
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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.

Video: Storm to dampen East Coast’s Labor Day? (on this page)

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.

Related: 7 clauses to beware of in your cruise contract

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 and 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.

Video: Earl rages in Caribbean, swirls toward U.S.

  1. Transcript of: Earl rages in Caribbean, swirls toward U.S.

    ANN CURRY, co-host: And I 'm Ann Curry in for Meredith . Good morning, everybody. And right now Hurricane Earl is packing winds in excess of 135 miles per hour . It's heading, as Matt just mentioned, into the open Atlantic Ocean after moving through parts of the Caribbean .

    LAUER: Now, for those of us who live here along the East Coast of the United States , this could turn out to be a pretty rough week, maybe even a tough Labor Day weekend . Take a look at the trajectory. Earl is expected to either hit or skirt nearly the entire East Coast .

    CURRY: And forecasters are warning coastal residents from North Carolina all the way up to Maine to keep a very close eye on this storm .

    LAUER: We're going to get to Al 's forecast in a moment.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: But let's begin with The Weather Channel 's Stephanie Abrams , who's in Cape Hatteras , North Carolina , where it appears to be the calm before the storm . Stephanie , good morning.

    STEPHANIE ABRAMS reporting: Good morning to you, Matt. Here in the Outer Banks we have two full days to prepare for Hurricane Earl . Unfortunately, the storm developed quickly in the Caribbean , acquiring the lowest pressure since Hurricane Ike back in 2008 . And remember, the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm . The first signs of Hurricane Earl came crashing into Puerto Rico Monday, with winds of more than 120 miles per hour and rain that wouldn't let up. People rushed to board up homes and businesses, preparing for the worst. It was too late for the owner of this building nearly pushed into the surf. Many tried to escape the storm , but the governor of Puerto Rico is asking people to stay home. In the US Virgin Islands , powerful winds threw debris onto roadways and tossed boats around in high surf. Now residents are bracing for Earl off the coast of the Carolinas . The storm could affect people all the way up to New England as it makes its way towards the East Coast . Now, Matt , airports are still closed in Puerto Rico , St. Croix , St. Thomas , also St. Martin , and cruise ships are having to change their courses as well.

    LAUER: All right, Stephanie Abrams down in Cape Hatteras for us this morning. Stephanie , thanks very much.

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Now let's head upstairs to see what Al 's doing. He's tracking the storm for us. Hey, Al.

    AL ROKER reporting: Hey, good morning Ann. And right now this is a powerful storm , a Category 4 , 150 miles north-northeast of San Juan , 135 mile per hour winds. It's still moving at a pretty good clip, west-northwest at 13 miles per hour . The watches and warnings of this system, we've got tropical storm watches for the Bahamas , tropical storm warnings for Turks and Caicos and Puerto Rico as Earl moves away. Path of the storm right now, as we showed you, it comes up along the coast. And sometime early Thursday on into Friday morning it comes along the Carolina coast, could actually make landfall along there, we're watching this, and may even affect all the way from the Carolinas on up into New England . And if that's not enough, we've got Fiona to talk about, much weaker storm , a tropical storm , 590 miles east of the Leeward Islands with 40 mile per hour winds. Path of this system a little bit slower, but it is moving pretty quickly, 23 miles per hour . And by sometime early Saturday it is somewhere between the US southeastern coast and Bermuda . So we'll have to watch this one as well. But we've got at least another week of storms to deal with and another system right behind that. Matt :

    LAUER: Just trying to keep you busy, Al . Thanks very much. We'll get the rest of your forecast in a couple of minutes.

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