Monday, August 30, 2010

Earl a Major Hurricane: Cat 3

Hurricane Earl has reached major hurricane status at Category 3 strength. The eye is now clearly visible in satellite imagery.
Maximum sustained winds are up to 120 mph, after starting off this morning at 105 mph. This indicates a period of rapid intensification is underway, thus, the increasingly evident eye. A sequence of eye-wall development and weakening is likely over the next several days, which will lead to some fluctuation of intensity. However, Earl is moving through a low-shear, warm surface water environment which will keep the hurricane very strong. Category 4 strength appears feasible, if not likely, sometime within the next 24 to 48 hours. The track of Earl will still curve precariously close to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the Virginia coastline late Thursday into early Friday.
As a result, we expect extremely high surf and rip tides with potential coastal flooding as Earl passes by. However, we are still several days away from the system's pass, and the track could shift significantly by that time. The model tracks shown above are counting on the approach of a trough and surface cold front late Thursday and Friday to the East Coast from the west across the U.S. That means Earl would be steered to the northeast away from a direct landfall as the trough advances eastward. But if this trough slows or weakens, Earl would be able to keep moving west, likely as a major hurricane. We will continue to provide updates on the air and online throughout the day, every day this week! For your reference, here is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale:

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