PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos – Islanders wary of a possible blow from powerful Hurricane Earl pulled boats ashore and packed supermarkets on the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday as the Category 4 storm howled over open seas toward the eastern United States.
The hurricane, with winds of 135 mph (215 kilometers), was expected to remain over the open ocean east of this British territory before turning north and running parallel to the U.S. coast, potentially reaching the North Carolina coastal region by Friday.
It was projected then to curve back out to sea, perhaps swiping New England or far-eastern Canada.
“There is still considerable uncertainty as to how close the hurricane will come to the U.S. East Coast,” the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a bulletin Tuesday.
Earl delivered a glancing blow to several small Caribbean islands on Monday, tearing roofs off homes and cutting electricity to people in Anguilla, Antigua, and St. Maarten. Cruise ships were diverted and flights canceled across the region. But there were no reports of death or injury.
In Providenciales, Benson Capron was among several fishermen tying their boats to trees lining a beach.
“I hear it is going to pass, but I will not take any chances,” Capron said. “Today I will not go out to fish.”
The Hurricane Center said it was too early to say what effect Earl would have in the U.S., but warned it could at least kick up dangerous rip currents. A surfer died in Florida and a Maryland swimmer had been missing since Saturday in waves spawned by former Hurricane Danielle, which weakened to a tropical storm Monday far out in the north Atlantic.
Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Earl’s approach ought to serve as a reminder for Atlantic coastal states to update their evacuation plans.
“It wouldn’t take much to have the storm come ashore somewhere on the coast,” Fugate said. “The message is for everyone to pay attention.”
The storm’s center passed just north of the British Virgin Islands on Monday afternoon. Despite a few lost fishing boats and several uprooted trees in Tortola and Anegada, there were no reports of major damage or injuries, said Sharleen DaBreo, disaster management agency director.