September 2nd, 2010
10:10 AM ET

Hurricane Earl may hit hard - even without landfall

Don't focus on the skinny line. That's the advice often given by meteorologists as a tropical storm or hurricane approaches the coast line.

When looking at the forecast track of a particular tropical storm or hurricane you will notice a shaded area that falls to the left and right of the forecast track. This shaded area is called the "cone of uncertainty" and is the average error in the forecast tracks of tropical cyclones issued by the National Hurricane Center. As a hurricane approaches, the track could shift to the left or right within the shaded area. So it is important to monitor the forecasts of tropical cyclones until you fall outside of the cone.

Tropical cyclones (the all-encompassing term for tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) can have far-reaching effects far away from the forecast track. For example, Earl's tropical storm force winds extend outward from the center by up to 200 miles. The entire system is now the size of the state of California. If the storm is moving at an average speed of 20 miles per hour, you can do the math: tropical storm force winds could arrive in your location up to 10 hours in advance of the hurricane!

Forecasters are also saying that Earl could come within 50 to 80 miles of the coast as Earl makes its closest approach. Although it is not forecast to make landfall, hurricane-force winds will be possible along the Outer Banks and Cape Cod as Earl makes its closest approach to those locations, because hurricane force winds extend outward from the center up to 90 miles with Earl.

In addition, residents along a coastline could, in some cases, experience the full brunt of a hurricane without it ever making landfall. Landfall occurs officially when the center of the eye comes in contact with land. The strongest winds in a hurricane occur around the edge of the eye in intense thunderstorms. This area is called the "eye-wall" and could come ashore without the center of the hurricane ever coming in contact with land.

The danger from tropical storms and hurricanes doesn't end with the winds: Lines of heavy thunderstorms, often called "squalls" can extend
outward from the storm for several hundred miles. These storms are capable of producing very heavy rainfall in a very short amount of time,
flooding streets and highways. The spiral bands can also produce tornadoes and waterspouts with little or no advance warning.

So it is important to take into account the far-reaching effects of tropical storm and hurricanes. Just because a hurricane is forecast to remain offshore, it does not mean you are out of harms way, the effects of a category 4 hurricane like Earl are far-reaching. Don't focus on the skinny line!

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Filed under: Weather
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. icarroll

    can you say katrina?

    September 2, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lynnewah

    Can you feel the winds, Thatguy?.............:-)

    September 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. robert henson

    alot of what I read is like EARL. Alot air ! There could be alot people. Hell aright now.

    September 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. pierre jean

    we live in the last days fellows,material things are very important we can not live without them but the most important thing is our soul in a time this…always think there is a GOD who is bigger than earl and be able to calm it which is JESUS-CHRIST if you just confess HIM.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bonnetwagon

    Read the book "Eye to Eye" by William R. Koenig Every time we pressure Israel to give up land, G-d sends JUDGEMENT on us ! Today at the White House the USA, Egypt, Jordan and several other country's are going to put pressure on Israel again, NOW here comes Earl. Israel's G-d neither slumbers or sleeps, and HE always defends HIS land

    September 2, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. itspolitics

    I like the headline in the link to this story 'Earl may hit you even if it misses land'

    what in the world does that mean, its going to come to Texas and get me.

    I know I know, its just to get people to click on the link, see I must have clicked on the link.

    September 2, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Whizbang

    For all of the wetting his pants Rob Marciano did last night about people not preparing and then screaming and running for the hills...I notice his dumb ark is still sitting on the beach. He was so worried about all of those people. He must be buletproof though. Rob, Rob, run away, run away, run away. We are so worried you are gonna get killed really bad!

    September 2, 2010 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. peteski2010

    Leave it up to the media to hype up the storm, what, you guys never saw a hurricane before? Looks like this one will have greater effects on Cape Cod later this weekend, but seriously folks, and especially to you local media types out there in TV Land....get a grip will ya! We're not goning to parish in a ball fo water and fire, we will be all fine by Friday after 2pm EST here in Virginia!

    September 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. billinpa

    If you get hit by Earl, blame Obama. Everything is his fault.

    September 2, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David Grchan

    How far off the coat is Earl now?

    September 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen Lyod

      Hurrcane Earl is now in canada

      September 11, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joel

    As weird as it is to be disappointed by a rnrhicaue not hitting us, it would have been nice to have some wind. sheesh, we didn't even lose power. We lose power down here when too many seagulls fly passed.

    April 22, 2012 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
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