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. wowlfer

    The ghost of 1938 is stirring.......

    September 2, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Naws

      Not even close.

      September 2, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. fridgerapper

    My prediction is that this storm will be another Hugo cutting up through the middle of North Carolina.

    September 2, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • macified

      Yeah, pretty sure that Sout Carolina took alot of the brunt of Hugo before it ever got to North Carolina. NC is not the only state out there that gets hurricanes.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Tarheel Blue

      Ever hear of the Carolina Hurricanes? They didn't name the team after a weather phenomenon for nothing.

      September 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kakarrot

      Bring on Earl!!! I'm in Winston Salem, NC! I love me a great storm! 🙂

      September 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Judith

      I noticed that Earl seemed to be following the same path from the start but I hope you're wrong! My husband laughed at me when I told him we should prepare for Hugo, but it came through Charlotte, NC.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      And what makes you an expert? I'll stick with the NWS, thank you.

      September 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • DPMan

      I hope.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbara

      We could use some rain here. Too dry.

      September 2, 2010 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. whatnext

    Earl may hit you even if it misses land – You're all going to die. There's nothing you can do to prepare for it. This is the first hurricane to approach the U.S.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • SAHM

      Haha The media acts like we are all stupid!

      September 2, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • qwerty allstar

      alot of you are stupid.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      @qwerty allstar especially people who spell a lot (two words) as alot (doesn't exist).

      September 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vortex Vic

      I just heard it is turning to extinguish the oil platform fire in the Gulf then cut back to the Atlantic and pick up where it would have been had it not been distracted.

      September 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. nonPCrealist

    In Soviet Russia Land hits Earl..

    September 2, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Yikes

      Hahaha! I'm so glad that someone else uses that! You just made my day!

      September 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kakarrot

      Classic man! LOL! Love it!

      September 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • nonPCrealist

      I'm kinda a big deal, in Germany. 🙂

      September 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark nyc

      i can see earl from my house.....

      September 2, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Texas Pete

    Yeah, not like NC has never gotten hit by a hurricane before...

    September 2, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Fat Jeff

    nonPCrealist: classic.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Russ

    I have long hoped that a hurricane would come up the coast and destroy all the homes along the beaches. Then the states could take over the land by eminent domain and turn it into public parks/beaches for everyone to enjoy. As it is, almost all of it is privately owned. It should never have been allowed to happen.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • whatnext

      Russ, if the states took over the land by eminent domain, they would probably do it to allow commercial development. Anything for a few dollars.

      September 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Umm...have you ever been to the Outer Banks Russ? It already is parkland. You can go anywhere you want on the beaches FOR FREE.

      September 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • freeman

      Yeah, maybe the federal government should take YOUR home away from you so we can build a tacky theme park on it. Brilliant idea, Joe Stalin.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      Class envy and hatred what a lousy combination.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JDT

      @Russ-I disagree. I think we have too many public beaches as it is. These places are the armpit of America in the tourist seasons. Drunk 'necks, the homeboys, and every particle of trash comes out of the wood work to converge on these places in the summer. Then, because they feel they paid good money to go on a vacation, they lose all regard for the "locals" and other vacationers and become drunken animals. People, like me, like to have a nice place to relax (and bring my young children to) and enjoy the quiet solitude of the Outer Banks. And, quite often, if you look on-line, you can find rentals so that you (too) can enjoy it without having to sit next to Billy-Bob Redneck and his 300 pound wife in a thong.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bull

      Russ,you are a true putz.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Allotta F. Gina

    first shower in weeks for some residents of North Carolina.
    Take Scott whipket for instance, he hasn't showered since 2003.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ken in TX

    It will hit me when those idiots talk the government into spending federal tax dollars to truck sand back to their beaches! Maybe the fed should pay for my hail damage or repaint my car from all the sun damage here in TX -buck it up people

    September 2, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  10. JR

    Whether it's the possibility of a hurricane or just potential for a thunderstorm, making prepartions and paying attention to the weather in general is the responsible and adult thing to do. Worst case scenario, you have dinner in the house for a few days anda full tank of gas. Whoopee. If you find that difficult, then I don't know what to tell you.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. MJ


    September 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HHM

    While I'm not actually hoping for destruction, I do agree that nobody should be able to own the shoreline. It's a shame that only those with the financial means can enjoy it.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Are you serious?

      September 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howie


      September 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • freeman

      There are hundreds of miles of public beaches, parks, and wildlife refuges in every state along the east coast. Nobody is being denied access to the shoreline. Sounds like somebody is just jealous!

      If you are serious, then what about lakefront and riverfront property? What about property in valleys, or on mountaintops? Areas with fertile soil? Forests? Deserts? Where does it stop? When nobody is allowed to own private property at all, and we are living in a police state?

      September 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • southerner

      only in New Jersey are the beaches private – or accessable only by paid admission.
      North Carolina beaches- esp those in the Outer Banks and Hatteras island are free and open to all- beach-front houses do not control access to hte beach. Thier property lines are behind the dunes and do not extend to the waterline as they do in NJ.
      I've lived in both states- I know.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mateo

    Is California safe? Just kidding.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rivirivi

    Mucho Miedo! These forces are way strong.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tim

    @Russ – what an idiot – you have long hoped that all the homes on the coast would be destroyed – why????? – you jealous that you don't own one of them??? I live in Virginia Beach, but not on the oceanfront, and I have many friends who live on the water – they've worked hard for their homes, and for someone – even in joking to say they "have long hoped" for the houses to be destroyed is just.......well......STUPID!

    September 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • RRK


      September 2, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tiff

      I'm in Norfolk...stay dry Tim! Russ, you suck! A nor'easter last November flooded many houses here in Ghent, including our apartment. It was devastating, to say the least. How nice of you to wish that on anyone.

      September 2, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      I agree. I am also in Norfolk. I am hoping it doesn't cause too much damage. Those who say they HOPE it destroys things, apparently never been through anything like this. Why do people post assanine things!

      September 2, 2010 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
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