The Washington Post

Hurricane Earl: Capital Weather Gang tracks the storm

Aug 31, 2010

Capital Weather Gang hurricane expert Greg Postel will be online Tuesday, Aug. 31, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss Hurricane Earl, which is currently a category four storm and is headed on a path for the East Coast, possibly from the Carolinas to Cape Cod.

Good afternoon, I'm the hurricane expert for the Capital Weather Gang.  Thanks for your questions in advance.  Lots of them, so let's get at it.

I am currently scheduled to fly DCA-JFK-Europe on Saturday (leaving DCA around noon). Do you have any thoughts, based on the projected path if this might become an issue (I see the eye off the coast of N.C. on Friday and up to Canada by Saturday a.m.)? Thanks.

Shouldn't be a problem for you.  Earl will likely be off the Canadian maritimes by then.  Breezy post-cold front (non Earl) WNW winds in DCA and JFK.  Depending on flight path to Europe, maybe a few bumps.

The 5-day forecasts seem to say that the weekend will be a real cool-down compared to these mid-90s. Is that due to Earl? Or is there a cold front on the way from the northwest?

Strong cold front moving through will be primary reason for cooldown.  Earl will interact with the front offshore and perhaps make the cooling and breezes behind it a bit more noticeable.

Is it likely that Earl will be similar to Isabel in it's impact? Should we be prepared for another week or two without power?

Unlikely.  Isabel (2003) crossed the NC coast on a northwest track, plowing inland all the way to Canada.  The core of  the hurricane came onshore.   Earl's track should be very different.   It appears right now that the East Coast will get brushed by the western periphery of the circulation, while the core remains out to sea.

As long as it stays out to sea this is going to be the best surfing of the summer so far! Woo!

please be careful.  hurricane surf and tides are particularly dangerous.

Hi there - My kayak is stored on an outside wooden kayak rack about 40 feet from Assawoman Bay in Fenwick, Del.  Should I be driving there (3 hours) to store it somewhere safer?

I honestly don't know.

What is going to be the timing of wind and rain in Ocean City on Friday?

It's still too early to confidently provide forecast details of wind and rain.  We don't know what the rain bands will look like, or what the cloud pattern will be.  Right now it appears that the best chance for Earl effects is between the early morning Friday (say 6am) and late afternoon Friday (~4pm).   but these are just estimates right now.  Earl should accelerate rapidly away from the coast later Friday and be followed quickly be clearing skies and NW breezes by evening

Does D.C. get rain this weekend?

probably not from earl.    more likely from the cold front.

There is a lot of money to be made in commercial television for exaggerating the danger a storm poses. At no point has the NHC forecast Hurricane Earl to make landfall, yet sensationalist coverage convinces viewers to keep watching. Is there any real substantial risk that this storm will make landfall? Should we all just go to the NHC's Web site to get the real story?


While the ensemble guidance paints a confident picture of  Earl's core remaining offshore, the edges of the circulation may very well impact the Coast.  We have to wait and see what the storm looks like as it approaches.

NHC has been great.   They have clearly stated the uncertainty of the forecast.  And you're right, they have consistently kept the center out to sea.

plug:  Capital Weather Gang is a GREAT resource.

Hi - Thanks so much for the chat! I have a flight Friday morning out of Dulles. What do you think the chances are of Earl affecting my flight plans? It seems that this is the time when it will be closest to our region.

probably ok.   maybe delays that filter in from travel along the Eastern Seaboard.  check before you leave.

We are scheduled to go to the beach (Ocean City, Md.) on Friday night/Saturday morning. How will Earl and upcoming Fiona affect the beach weather?

you probably don't have to worry about direct effects from  Earl late Friday night/Sat morning.   But prepare for a cool and breezy weekend !

We are leaving from Ohio to Virginia Beach Saturday for a week's vacation, what are your thoughts?

Earl should be long gone by saturday.   but it will be cool for the weekend in the wake of a strong cold front.

I've looked at the strorm track, but wondered, do you think Norfolk will get much rain from Earl? It is prone to flooding when pounded by rain.

I'd love to be able to say ... but it's just too early to make a call on what the radar will look like.  But Norfolk does indeed stand a chance of some rain/gusty winds Friday.

Do you think Fiona will influence Earl- maybe push him inward?

Probably not

Another travel question. Scheduled to fly from Dulles to the midwest Friday afternoon at 5. Does that look doable as of now? When would you expect us to have a "definite" idea of what to expect and when?

yes.  check for delays that filter in from East Coast flights.

Do you think we will get any rain at all from Earl or will it be too far off the coast for that?

in D.C., probably not

Is there likely to be any rain or wind from Earl on the East Coast (particularly on the mid-Atlantic beaches) or just high waves and riptides?

Along the immediate coast, yes, rain and wind are looking more and more likely.

Why is it so unusual for a hurricane to work its way up the East coast as it doesn't seem to happen very often. What makes this storm unusual? And lastly is the storm surge more dangerous then the high winds or to soon to tell at this point?

Hurricanes, in general, are a relatively rare phenomenon.  And ones that move along a longitude that impacts the East Coast is only one kind of an already unusual event.  Aside from that, there's nothing unusual about Earl :)

When do you think we'll have a pretty good idea about how Earl will affect our region? It seems like there are a lot of variables out there now.

Yep.  A LOT of variance left in the forecast details.  By thursday, we'll have a pretty good idea of what's coming.  Right now, we can give you track/intensity estimations. But to guess the radar pattern Earl will present 3 days from now is not wise.

What causes most hurricanes to take that sharp right turn around Cape Hatteras? It frequently looks like they're aiming directly for Long Island or Cape Cod, but they rarely get there!

Westerly winds aloft.  By the time tropical cyclones move north of, say 30 degrees (i.e. Jacksonville, Fla), they often encounter the westerlies that bring us our weather changes.  These often spare North America from hurricane strikes.

I planned to drive from DC to NY on Friday morning, leaving around 10 a.m. My mother is very worried about me driving with a lot of wind from the storm. Is this a terrible idea? Should I try to leave Thursday night instead?

if you can, wait till Friday night or Sat morning.

I understand there are other hurricanes brewing out in the Atlantic. I realize it is early yet, but is there any indication (from water temps, upper atmosphere, etc) of the eventual track of those storms?

not really yet.  We have tropical storm Fiona.  Path (and even survival) at this point is largely in question.

What are the reports out of areas that Earl has affected/is affecting now?

I don't know today.  but yestderday i read of hurricane force gusts on St. Croix.

What are the chances that this warmer than usual summer weather will extend into fall giving us an extra month of nice temperatures before needing to pull out the jackets and sweaters?

pretty good.

Can you discuss the steering currents that are likely to control the storm track. All of the the Hurricane Center's models show the storm veering to the northeast with some prediction models showing turns more drastic than others.

Yep.  A strong upper trough (with counterclockwise rotating winds) will be moving into the Ohio Valley late in the week.  The westerly/southwesterly winds associated with this system will be nudging Earl back out to sea.  Also the strong upper-level high pressure system (clockwise flow) to its east will be providing a strong northerly push as well.

I am scheduled to leave on a 1 week cruise to the Bahamas (out of Baltimore) this Sunday. It seems like Earl will not cause any problems for our trip, but what about Fiona? What are our chances for smooth sailing to and from the Bahamas next week?

don't know right now.  Keep an eye to the Hurricane Center's updates.

We know people in the BVI, including Anegada, and the USVI. Is there any word in on how the islands fared?

i don't know of any

What is your forecast for I-95 from D.C. to Boston on Friday?

rain along the corridor too early to call.  Breezy north winds, esp as you head toward BOS.

Did I just hear right that FEMA may do evacs not because it is expected to hit land but because of possible coastal flooding?

don't know

So if the hurricane is expected to brush the mainland, can we consider Friday a washout? What level of precipitation is likely here in D.C.?

not likely a washout in DC

gotta run.  i really enjoyed the time.  Take care and stay dry.

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Greg Postel
Greg Postel is a hurricane expert with the Capital Weather Gang.
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