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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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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updated 8/31/2010 10:25:08 AM ET 2010-08-31T14:25:08

Hurricane Earl, now a powerful Category 4 storm, barreled toward the U.S. coast early Tuesday after battering tiny islands across the northeastern Caribbean with heavy rain and winds that damaged homes and toppled power lines.

Packing winds of 135 mph, Earl is forecast to potentially brush the U.S. East Coast late Thursday, before curving back out to sea, possibly swiping New England or far-eastern Canada. The U.S. National Hurricane Center warned coastal residents from North Carolina to Maine to watch the storm closely.

"Any small shift in the track could dramatically alter whether it makes landfall or whether it remains over the open ocean," said Wallace Hogsett, a meteorologist at the center. "I can't urge enough to just stay tuned."

In the Caribbean, Earl caused flooding in low-lying areas and damaged homes on islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla and St. Maarten. Several countries and territories reported power outages. Cruise ships were diverted and flights canceled across the region.

Heavy downpours
The storm's center passed just north of the British Virgin Islands on Monday afternoon. By nighttime, the hurricane was pulling away from the Caribbean, but heavy downpours still threatened to cause flash floods and mudslides in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by drenching already saturated ground.

The hurricane was moving west-northwest on a curving track that the National Hurricane Center said would take it near Cape Hatteras, N.C., on Thursday and Friday.

A direct hit could not be ruled out, and Earl was expected to bring drenching rain, dangerous seas and surf and gusting wind to the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to New England and Canada, said Alex Sosnowski, a senior meteorologist for private forecaster AccuWeather.

If Earl swings farther west than expected, heavy rain could sweep the Interstate 95 corridor from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, he said.

On its current path, Earl posed no threat to the Gulf of Mexico, where major U.S. oil and gas installations are located.  

The Hurricane Center warned Earl could at least kick up dangerous rip currents. A surfer died in Florida and a Maryland swimmer had been missing since Saturday in waves spawned by former Hurricane Danielle , which weakened to a tropical storm Monday far out in the north Atlantic.

Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Earl's approach ought to serve as a reminder for Atlantic coastal states to update their evacuation plans.

"It wouldn't take much to have the storm come ashore somewhere on the coast," Fugate said. "The message is for everyone to pay attention."

Close on Earl's heels, Tropical Storm Fiona formed Monday afternoon in the open Atlantic. The storm, with maximum winds of 40 mph, was projected to pass just north of the Leeward Islands by Wednesday and stay farther out in the Atlantic than Earl's northward path. Fiona wasn't expected to reach hurricane strength over the next several days.

The rapid development of Earl, which only became a hurricane Sunday, took some islanders and tourists by surprise.

'We've just got to pray'
Wind was already rattling the walls of Lila Elly Ali's wooden house on Anegada, the northernmost of the British Virgin Islands, when she and her son went out to nail the doors shut Monday.

"They say the eye of the storm is supposed to come close to us, so we've just got to pray. Everyone here is keeping in touch, listening to the radio," the 58-year-old said by phone from the island of 280 people.

After Earl's center passed, there were reports of roofs torn from homes on Anegada, but the extent of damage across the Virgin Islands was unclear Monday night. Emergency officials said they had no immediate reports of any fatalities or serious injuries.

"Thank God we survived," said a caller to the British Virgin Islands' ZBVI Radio.

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In Anguilla, several utility poles were down and a couple of roofs had blown away, but it was still too dangerous to go out and assess the full extent of damage, said Martin Gussie, a police officer.

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, Colorado, 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.

"There was a huge line of people checking out as we were coming in, and I thought it was just that summer vacation must be over," said John Helton, a real estate appraiser. "But we paid for the room, so we might as well stick it out."

"I don't think we could get a flight even if we wanted to leave," Linda Helton added.

There were no reports so far of major damage from Earl.

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In St. Maarten, sand and debris littered the streets, and winds knocked down trees and electricity poles and damaged roofs. But police spokesman Ricardo Henson said there was no extensive damage to property.

In Antigua, at least one home was destroyed but there were no reports of serious injuries. Governor General Dame Louise Agnetha Lake-Tack declared Monday a public holiday to keep islanders off the road and give them a chance to clean up.

Some 4 to 8 inches of rain were forecast to fall on islands including Puerto Rico.

Late Monday, Earl was about 105 miles north of Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, and steaming west-northwest near 14 mph, according to the center in Miami. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 70 miles from its center.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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