Larger than the state of California, Hurricane Earl prepared to take a swipe at the Eastern Seaboard on Thursday as residents scrambled to ready themselves ahead of its arrival.
Hurricane warnings and watches stretched from North Carolina to Delaware, and covered parts of Massachusetts.
President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina Wednesday evening. The action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts, and also makes federal funds available to states. Maryland's governor issued an emergency declaration earlier in the day.
The monster storm is forecast to pass close to North Carolina's Outer Banks on Thursday night, the National Hurricane Center said. It is expected to take aim at southeastern New England on Friday night. The storm's track shifted slightly to the west, closer to North Carolina's Cape Hatteras. The National Hurricane Center has posted storm watches and warnings for areas as far north as Maine.