Midday Earl update

So far Earl is behaving pretty much as expected, but this is going to be a period of maximum feasible anxiety along the North Carolina coast, and at the National Hurricane Center, in Miami.

Vacationers are being routed from the Outer Banks, as Currituck County has ordered a mandatory evacuation. Not only that, booze sales have been suspended.

At last look, Earl was a Category 4 hurricane with top winds near 138 m.p.h., and probably has reached its peak intensity. Here is the 11 a.m. advisory.

It is now moving north about 18 m.p.h., on a course to approach Cape Hatteras in the early morning hours. Gale-force winds are expected to arrive there tonight and continue at least through late morning tomorrow.

The expanse of Earl is quite impressive for a hurricane, with tropical-storm winds -- at least 39 m.p.h. -- extending outward 230 miles from the center. That wind field actually could grow.

The hurricane center forecast still calls for Earl to stay east of the coast, but with that wing span its western flank looks to punish the Outer Banks.

It also should be close enough to the Delaware and New Jersey coasts to generate strong winds and some rain along the beaches.

Thus a hurricane watch remains in effect for coastal Delaware, and a tropical-storm warning for the entire Jersey coast.

On its current projected track, Earl is forecast to bear to the right tomorrow morning after it passes Hatteras, with the best chance for landfall would somewhere along Cape Cod.

But don't be surprised if some bullet-sweating occurs at the hurricane center should that predicted turn is somehow compromised or delayed. 

The consistency of the projected track speaks to the marvels of computer guidance. But computers are fallible, and following them still requires of a leap of virtual faith.

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