Hurricane Earl is a major hurricane and will make a very close swipe to the eastern seaboard, particularly the Outer Banks of North Carolina and portions of New England. There are several different steering patterns in the atmosphere that will determine exactly how close this storm gets to the east coast. The area of high pressure that has kept our weather dry and hot all week will continue to drift into the Atlantic Ocean. This is helping to tug Earl more on a northerly path, versus the westerly track it was once taking. The wild card in Earl's path remains a cold front that will sweep through central Virginia in the next 48 hours or so. This will start to tug Earl's path more to the northeast and away from the coast. Each hour is critical here and the longer it takes Earl to feel the influence of the cold front, the nastier the conditions will be in coastal areas. Regardless of whether or not Earl actually “makes landfall,” impacts will still be felt.
Right now, it appears that low-end hurricane conditions are possible, especially for the southern Outer Banks from the Oregon Inlet points south toward Ocracoke Island, where evacuation orders have been issued. Tropical storm conditions are possible for the northern Outer Banks and the Virginia Beach area. The worst conditions will be felt beginning Thursday and lingering into early Friday morning. Hurricane Earl will then quickly accelerate toward New England by late Friday and into Saturday. The Labor Day weekend at the beaches should be tranquil weather-wise, but expect some high surf and an increased rip current threat especially on Saturday, before the seas calm down later in the weekend.
Here in central Virginia, we'll hardly be able to tell that there's a hurricane a few hundred miles to our east. We will see a few clouds on Thursday, but otherwise, our hot weather will continue for a few more days, before the cold front brings us some beautiful conditions for the weekend. That wasn't the case in 2006, when Tropical Storm Ernesto brought us several inches of rain and gusty winds on the Friday before Labor Day. Looks like we're off the hook this time around.
Will Earl influence your Labor Day weekend plans at all? I welcome your comments or questions on this story!