Staten Island braces for Hurricane Earl, but blue skies on the horizon

Andrew J Lanza

September 02, 2010

From the Staten Island Advance:

NAGS HEAD, N.C. -- Hurricane Earl steamed toward the Eastern Seaboard yesterday as communities from North Carolina to New England kept a close eye on the forecast, worried that even a slight shift in the storm's predicted offshore track could put millions of people in the most densely populated part of the country in harm's way.

Staten Island should brace for high winds, driving rain and heavy surf tomorrow, but it should all blow over for the holiday weekend.

The Jersey Shore and Long Island are expected to bear the brunt locally, with storm warnings posted as far as Sandy Hook to the north and Montauk to the east. There is the potential for storm force winds, said Michael Leseney, senior meteorologist with

"It all depends on the track of the storm. If it moves west [it could buffet Staten Island], but right now for Staten Island its main effects will be potential tropical storm force winds."

Leseney noted that the Island could see rough surf and strong riptides at the beaches and high seas with very dangerous wave actions for boaters.

Earl is expected to be east of the Island at 8 p.m. tomorrow.

Leseney said the weekend forecast for Staten Island "looks beautiful" so long as Earl keeps his distance.

Meanwhile, vacationers along North Carolina's dangerously exposed Outer Banks took advantage of the typical picture-perfect day just before a hurricane arrives to pack their cars and flee inland, cutting short their summer just before Labor Day weekend.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared states of emergency, sea turtle nests on one beach were scooped up and moved to safety, and the crew of the Navy's USS Cole rushed to get home to Norfolk, Va., yesterday ahead of the bad weather. The destroyer was supposed to return later this week from a seven-month assignment fighting piracy off Somalia.

Farther up the East Coast, emergency officials urged people to have disaster plans and supplies ready and weighed whether to order evacuations as they watched the latest maps from the National Hurricane Center -- namely, the "cone of uncertainty" showing the broad path the storm could take.

Earl was expected to reach the North Carolina coast late tonight and wheel to the northeast, staying offshore while making its way up the Eastern Seaboard. But forecasters said it could move in closer, perhaps coming ashore in North Carolina, crossing Long Island and passing over the Boston metropolitan area and Cape Cod.

That could make the difference between modestly wet and blustery weather on the one hand, and dangerous storm surge, heavy rain and hurricane-force winds on the other.

"Everyone is poised and ready to pull the trigger if Earl turns west, but our hope is that this thing goes out to sea and we're all golfing this weekend," said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

As of last night, Earl was a powerful Category 4 hurricane centered more than 520 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., with winds of 140 mph. The most powerful category is 5 with winds 155 mph and higher.

Red Cross officials prepared to open as many as 50 shelters on Long Island that could house up to 60,000 people in an emergency. No evacuation orders were issued, but officials were going to re-examine the situation this morning.

Emergency officials on Cape Cod braced for their first major storm since Hurricane Bob brought winds of up to 100 mph to coastal New England in August 1991. Marinas encouraged people to take their boats out of the water now instead of waiting for Labor Day.

Also yesterday, the seventh tropical storm of the season formed far out in the Atlantic. Tropical Storm Gaston had sustained winds of 40 mph and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane this weekend as it moves toward the Leeward Islands.

Tropical Storm Fiona remained north of the Caribbean with winds of 60 mph and is expected to move toward Bermuda over the next several days. And Tropical Storm Gaston on their heels is beginning to slow down over the open Atlantic, making it the fourth named storm in 11 days.