At the height of the season, a newly born hurricane, Hurricane Earl, is moving up the East Coast this next week according to MSNBC.com. It’s the first storm of its kind to actually threaten the coast, though the odds it will make landfall aren’t huge. Positioned north of Puerto Rico on Monday morning, it could affect beaches along the South and Mid-Atlantic coastlines. Currently a Category 2 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale and with sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (169 kph), the hurricane is expected to be upgraded to a Category 3 in the next few days, making it a major hurricane by tonight or early Tuesday. Earl began as a tropical storm near the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa.
Cruise ships across the Caribbean have been forced to reposition due to the storm, USA Today reports. The Carnival lines Victory, Pride, and Dream, the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic, and Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas have all changed itineraries. The Hurricane Warning is effecting Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. There is a Hurricane Watch in affect for Puerto Rico.
Tropical Storm Fiona could also be a threat and is following Earl, but wouldn’t be of much concern for another week.
Hurricanes in Metro DC have been known to cause tornado outbreaks, flooding, and power outages. Hurricane Isabel, a Category 5 that struck the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a Category 2 surged up the Mid-Atlantic region in September of 2003. The Hurricane killed 10 people in Virginia, and 1 in Maryland; it was indirectly responsible for killing 22 in Virginia, 66 in Maryland, and 1 in the District of Columbia, according to the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center.
Residents in the D.C. area aren’t expected to make to start making hurricane emergency plans just yet, but their travel and vacation plans for the current week may have to be somewhat altered, in particular if they were thinking of heading to the beach.
While it is impossible to predict with strong accuracy the path of any hurricane, the current trajectory places Earl between Bermuda and the Bahamas with a likely path to follow along North Carolina and Massachusetts, arriving east of Cape Hatteras on Thursday and possibly east of Cape Cod and Long Island by Friday. As Earl is projected to come close to shore, it will likely cause problems along popular Delmarva beaches from Ocean City to Lewes, Delaware during the week. Strong rip currents generated from this weekend’s brush with Hurricane Danielle have caused 250 lifeguard rescues in Ocean City, the Baltimore Sun is reporting, while a 23-year old Hispanic male from Washington D.C. has gone missing after swimming in the area. Lifeguards had closed the beach around 5 p.m.
Earl is likely to cause even stronger rip currents and heavy surf. Were it to come closer to shore, it could create storm surges, flash flooding, and dangerous waves.
Jack Beven and Hugh Cobb, “Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Isabel” National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center
Gene Sloan, “Growing Hurricane Earl scatters cruise ships in Eastern Caribbean” USA Today
Associated Press, “1 missing, 250 rescued off Ocean City after hurricane-related rip currents” Baltimore Sun
MSNBC, “Hurricane Earl Could Impact East Coast Beaches”