Earl Upsets Travels, Weakens, on Way to New England

Hurricane Earl Heads Toward New England
Earl is now tracking toward coastal Massachusetts, with the storm’s closest pass to the U.S. expected at Nantucket before it plows into Canada tomorrow. Source: NOAA/Getty Images

Hurricane Earl, weakening as it moves north toward New England and Canada, disrupted air and rail travel and lashed North Carolina’s Outer Banks with wind and rain.

The storm’s top winds at 8 p.m. East Coast time were 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour, giving it Category 1 status, down from 105 mph earlier today, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory. Earl is 155 miles south-southwest of Nantucket and is expected to pass the island overnight on route to landfall tomorrow near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The storm, which had been a Category 4 system with winds of 145 miles per hour, deteriorated throughout the day as it moved over colder water and high winds tore at its structure, said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, based in Camp Springs, Maryland.

“Earl is weakening, it is getting sheared apart with the upper level trough that was moving from the west,” Bell said. “Earl is moving into progressively colder water; Earl is weakening as it should, but another factor is this upper level trough that is picking it off to the northeast as well.”

Flood Watch

Overnight, the storm passed 85 miles from North Carolina’s barrier islands as a Category 2 hurricane, cutting power and flooding a major Outer Banks road.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for southern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and Nantucket. The storm is still expected to drop 4 to 6 inches of rain across eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island and as much as 8 inches in some locations, said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

As it pulls away from New England, the weather will improve and the rest of the Labor Day holiday weekend will be sunny, warm and dry, she said.

“Earl is turning out to be a pearl, for the weekend anyway,” Buttrick said.

Amtrak, Airlines

Airlines canceled 151 flights out of 21 airports along the East Coast as of 4 p.m. New York time, more than usual for a typical day this time of year, according to FlightStats.com, a Portland, Oregon-based company that tracks aviation data. New Jersey’s Newark airport had the most with 43, while New York’s LaGuardia had 14 and Norfolk, Virginia, had 18.

Previously this week, there were about 30 to 60 cancellations most days at those airports, depending on local weather conditions.

Amtrak suspended multiple trains between Boston and New York before canceling all service when a falling tree damaged electrical equipment.

Two Canadian refineries are in the path of the storm, including the nation’s largest, the Irving Oil plant in Saint John, New Brunswick, which produces more than 300,000 barrels a day, according to the company’s Web site. About 175,000 barrels are exported daily to the U.S. Northeast.

Imperial Oil Ltd. is shutting down its Dartmouth refinery in Nova Scotia because of Hurricane Earl, Pius Rolheiser, a company spokesman, said today. The refinery, across the harbor from Halifax, processes about 82,000 barrels of oil per day.

Ecum Secum to Digby

A hurricane warning remains in place for Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Cape Cod, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Ecum Secum to Digby in Nova Scotia. All warnings south of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, have been discontinued. A warning is still posted for parts of Long Island and the southern New England coast.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency while the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced today that an emergency disaster declaration by President Barack Obama would make aid available for the state.

In the Atlantic, southeast of Earl, Fiona was downgraded to a tropical depression about 100 miles south-southwest of Bermuda and the island’s storm warning was canceled, according to the center.

Elsewhere, the hurricane center is tracking two systems, one of them the remains of Tropical Storm Gaston. The center gives Gaston a 50 percent chance of reforming. The second system, off the African coast, has a 30 percent chance of becoming a storm.

In the eastern Pacific, the center is also tracking two tropical depressions, one of which is expected to develop into a tropical storm and strike southern Mexico overnight. The Mexican government has issued a tropical storm warning for its southern Pacific coast near the Gulf of Tehuantepec, according to the center.

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