HurricaneHurricane Earl was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane at 11 am EDT Monday, when its winds reached speeds of 120 mph.

The storm was in the process of passing over the Leeward Islands Monday morning, and over the Virgin Islands this afternoon, as it continued to gain speed and power along its journey. It is fully expected that on Tuesday the storm will head northwest.

Sustained winds in St. Marten on Monday at 8 am were 41 mph with gusts of 61 mph. As the hurricane approached there were signs of hurricane conditions all across the Leeward Islands.

Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and the islands of Vieques and Culebra in Puerto Rico were all under hurricane warnings on Monday. According to the hurricane center, hurricane conditions would felt within 12 hours and people should have already taken precautions to protect themselves and their property. Winds were expected to reach speeds of up to 74 mph inland and rainfall would total 8 to 12 inches. There would be a storm surge that would raise the levels of the water 2 to 4 feet in the areas under the hurricane warning, and 1 to 3 feet in areas under the tropical storm warning. Wave action will be strong.

All of Puerto Rico is currently under a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch. This is also true of Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis. A tropical storm watch is also issued for Turks and Caicos Islands.

Earl is expected to hit the U.S. coast over the Labor Day weekend and could strike anywhere from the Carolinas to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Officials expect the outer bands to hit North Carolina on Thursday.