Hurrican EarlHurricane Earl has strengthened and is expected to make a close approach to the north eastern US seaboard Thursday morning, then parallel the coast for two days before passing over eastern portions of Canada.

Earl is now a powerful category 4 storm, with sustained winds of 135 mph and heavy rains. If it maintains its current forecasted track, much of the fury of the storm will remain out to sea.  However, the east coast will likely see heavy flooding and some wind damage.  It’s likely to be a major disruption of holiday traffic over the long weekend. Labor Day is September 6th.

The US Coast Guard is setting up a 24 hour command center that will monitor issues related to the storm. A major concern will be keeping people out of the heavy surf, according to U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Anthony Popiel. “Especially during Labor Day, the last blast of summer, we’re going to have a lot of visitors coming to the Crystal Coast and the Outer Banks. We really need the visitors to stay on the beach, stay out of the water and stay safe,” he said.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands were buffeted with strong winds and heavy rain on Monday. Airlines cancelled flights and cruise ships were rerouted. Air and sea ports in BVI remained closed as of today. Antigua experienced flooding.  Toppled trees and down power lines were reported in St. Marten.

According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, hurricane watches are expected to be announced later today for portions of the US Atlantic coastline.

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