Meteorologists continue to predict that monster Hurricane Earl will parallel the coast and spare the area any major damage, but emergency management officials are warning people to be prepared anyway.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami was holding to its forecast that Earl, now a Category 3 storm sporting sustained winds of 125 mph, would skirt Nantucket sometime Friday. Forecasters said it is expected to be a Category 2 hurricane at that time.
“if this plays out perfectly and it runs parallel to the coast, the main impact (to new Southern new England will be in the way of strong swells and rip currents,” said Hurricane Center Director bill Read.
“Still, even a minor shift to the west could bring a major impact to the Mid-Atlantic and areas northward,” Read said. “even a small error of 100 miles could make a huge impact difference.”
As expected, Earl began turning to the northwest Tuesday night. It is headed straight toward Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, where it is forecast to turn first north and then northeast.
Most computer models show Earl passing 75 to 100 miles southeast of Nantucket, but one shows it barreling straight through Nantucket while another tracks the center through western Connecticut.
If Earl maintains is expected course, “it definitely is a weather-maker for the coast even if the center doesn’t come across,” Read said. The National Weather Service office in Taunton predicts “tropical storm conditions possible” for SouthCoast Friday afternoon and night, meaning winds could exceed 39 mph and rain could be heavy.
“The rain may be intense for a while, but it’s not going to cover the same place for very long,” Read said.
With a hurricane watch in effect for the North Carolina and Virginia coasts, officials ordered all tourists off Ocracoke Island at the tip of the Outer Banks.
Charlie Foley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Taunton, said the latest computer models had shown “a slight westerly shift toward land,” but said, “we’re still unsure of the track. When it gets past Hatteras, then we’d be better able to see where it’s going.”
And that’s when SouthCoasters would get more serious about preparation. While folks are keeping an eye on Earl, they weren’t doing much about it on Tuesday.
Home supply and grocery stores weren’t any busier than usual and boaters were waiting at least one more day to pull their boats from the water.
“We’ve still got another 24 hours before we’ve got to make the decision,” said James Ristuccia of Earl’s Marina in Fairhaven. “(Wednesday) morning
“I think everybody’s waiting until (Wednesday),” said Frank Oliver at Zecco Marine in Wareham. “if everybody decides to haul ‘em out, we’d never get them all out in time anyway.”
The Federal Emergency Management Administraiton, which took a lot of heat for its response to Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast five years ago, is well-prepared for Earl, administrator Craig Fugate said.
“we have teams deployed or deployable in all states from North Carolina to Maine,” he said. “We’re not waiting for the storm to hit. we want to get going early. We’re not waiting for people to ask.”
Likewise, NStar was preparing to handle any disruption of electrical service in the area. “our plans are well underway,” spokesman Michael Durand said Tuesday. “We’re not waiting. We’re increasing the number of line workers and the support services we have in place.”
Communities also are getting ready in case evacuations are needed.
“we have our emergency preparedness plan ready to be implemented,” said mark Andrews, town administrator in Wareham, one of the communities hardest hit by Bob in 1991, the last hurricane to strike SouthCoast. “WE have emergency shelters ready to be opened.”
The Coast Guard on Tuesday issued warnings for boaters from North Carolina to new England in advance of the approaching storm.SouthCoast hasn’t felt the wrath of a hurricane since Bob blew through in 1991 with gusts up to 108 mph and a storm surge of 7