Earl Possibly to Upgrade to Category 4 Storm, US Atlantic Coast on Alert
On August 30, Hurricane Earl intensified into a Category 4 hurricane -- sustained winds 131-155 MPH -- before leveling out back into a Category 3 storm. But even as a Category 3 hurricane, Earl is still a major storm with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 90 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extending outward up to 200 miles. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), preliminary data from an Air Force plane indicate that Earl is beginning to strengthen, once again becoming a Category 4 hurricane late on Wednesday, September 1.
As of 2 PM Wednesday, September 1, Earl was located about 680 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving northwest at about 17 MPH. This motion is expected to continue today, with a gradual turn to the north on Thursday. Forecasters with the NHC say that the core of the hurricane will continue to move well east and northeast of the Bahamas throughout the day on Wednesday and will approach the North Carolina Coast by late Thursday.
On Wednesday, officials issued mandatory evacuation orders for residents and visitors on Ocracoke Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the Cape Lookout National Seashore, as well as visitors on Hatteras Island. A hurricane warning is in effect for Bogue Inlet, North Carolina, northeastward to the North Carolina/Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, while a hurricane watch stretched from the North Carolina-Virginia line up to Cape Henlopen, Delaware. A tropical storm warning is in effect for from Cape Fear to west of Bogue Inlet. NHC forecasters also advised those in New Jersey, New York and New England to monitor the storm’s progress.
Amateur Radio Response
“Here at ARRL Headquarters, we are continuing to monitor Hurricane Earl,” said ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC. “I’ve been in touch with Section Managers, Section Emergency Coordinators and served agencies at the national level such as FEMA, National VOAD and the National Weather Service, sharing information about preparedness efforts in the storm’s path. Right now, like most, we are keeping alert, monitoring the changing conditions and waiting to see where Earl goes. We’re also keeping an eye on other storms developing in the Atlantic -- Fiona and Tropical Depression 9 -- in case they pose a threat.”
On August 31, North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) told affiliated agencies -- including ARES® units in that state -- that the State Emergency Operations Center will activate on Thursday, September 2 for Earl. ARRL North Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Tom Brown, N4TAB, warned amateurs in his state that there was an “impending ARES® activation” for North Carolina in advance of the storm reaching the area: “Jurisdictions in the affected areas have been engaged [with Hurricane Earl] for many days and will likely, be engaged for many more days.” He said that these coastal localities could be looking for help from those in areas not affected by the storm.
The NHC is predicting that Earl will approach within 60 miles of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, early on the morning of Friday, September 3, with hurricane-force winds possible along the Outer Banks of North Carolina beginning early on Friday morning and lasting until at least midday. Earl may not make a direct hit on the coast, instead brushing by. As it heads northward, Earl is forecast to pass within 60 miles of Nantucket, Massachusetts as a strong Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane overnight on Friday, but sustained hurricane-force winds should not affect coastal Massachusetts, as the majority of winds will be tropical-storm force beginning Friday afternoon and lasting until midday Saturday, September 4.
WX4NHC is monitoring the Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 MHz. Secondary HF frequencies will be 7.268 MHz and 3.950 MHz +/- QRM, should propagation be lost on 20 meters. EchoLink “WX-Talk” Conference Room and IRLP node 9219 is also being monitored. WX4NHC is also monitoring CWOP, APRS and MADIS/MESONET automated weather stations in the affected area, as well as EchoLink “WX-Talk” Conference Room and IRLP node 9219. Surface reports using WX4NHC’s Online Hurricane Report form are also being monitored.
The VoIP Hurricane Net will be active for Earl for as long as required to support WX4NHC with surface reports from stations within the affected area, or from amateurs who have contacts within the affected area who can relay information from those contacts. Stations can connect via EchoLink by connecting to the *WX_TALK* EchoLink conference node 7203, as well as via IRLP through IRLP reflector 9219. Several listen-only components for stations have been set up for those who don’t have contact with the affected area, enabling them to monitor the hurricane net. The listen-only information is posted in the VoIP hurricane net activation announcement on the VoIP Hurricane Net Web site.
“We request all land based stations, as well as ships at sea in the areas affected, to send us weather data (measured or estimated) and damage reports,” said WX4NHC Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R. “If you are in the affected area and normally monitor on a local Net on VHF, 40 or 80 meters, we would appreciate your checking into the HWN NET or EchoLink/IRLP Net once per hour to receive the latest hurricane advisories and to report your local conditions.”
NHC and FEMA
“Our two biggest concerns are the coast of North Carolina and extreme Southeast Virginia on early Friday morning, [and then] late Thursday night, and then on Friday into Saturday for Southeastern New England,” said National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read, KB5FYA. “Just a small change in the direction of the storm could raise an impact, and the large waves, beach erosion and rip currents will be a problem along the East Coast.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said in a press release that it is closely coordinating with state, territorial and local officials in the affected areas and along the East Coast, and stands ready to support their response as needed. “We continue to monitor Hurricane Earl and remain in close contact with state, territorial, and local officials to ensure they have the resources to respond if needed,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “I encourage everyone in the region and along the Eastern Seaboard to take steps now to keep their family safe and secure. The most important thing for people living in Earl’s potential tract to do is to listen to and follow the instructions of their local officials, including evacuation instructions if they are given.”
FEMA has activated the National Response Coordination Center and its Regional Response Coordination Centers in all four of its regional offices in the Eastern United States, located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta. FEMA has designated a Federal Coordinating Officer and has personnel on the ground North Carolina at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, supporting the state and is mobilizing personnel and supplies along the coast.
FEMA continues to support the Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in their response to Earl. FEMA staff are on the ground in both areas working closely with commonwealth and territorial officials, and FEMA has deployed an Incident Management Assistance Team to St Thomas and to San Juan, where staff are on watch around the clock monitoring developments.