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. hmr

    I'm in Richmond, VA. I say bring it on!!! We all love tropical systems coming through our neck of the woods.

    September 2, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slim Shady

      oh yeah i live in richomnd as well...

      September 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. hmr

    I love you "J".....you speak the trueth!

    September 2, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. liveOBXhwy12

    Russ is a tard and so are the rest of you who think that the OBX (outer banks) is a stretch of privatized beach. About the only parts that are inaccessible are the ones where bird and turtle loving foggats* have purposefully violated their own cause and destroyed nests and eggs only to have Dare County rope off these areas that are normally 4×4 accessible. turn off your computers, get your fat a's off the couch and take a vacation there. Then your opinion might count for something.

    September 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • JDT

      Dude... you are so right. And Russ is a TARD!

      September 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slim Shady

      OBX is awesome..there is so much beach to go to..Russ is just a litttle retarded

      September 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. liveOBXhwy12

    as for the hurricane... it might bring some rain, wind, and flooding, but probally no more than the "November Nor'Easter" from last year. And definitely will be no Hugo or Isabelle. Hopefully highway 12 won't be washed out again either. You guys in Va will probally have some real nice waves from Croatan all the way to 66th.. maybe even further north. Its gonna be a washer machine and unsurfable in the OBX.

    September 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. 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 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. liveOBXhwy12

    one more note that ticks me off. The damn governor declared a state of emergency and they stopped the sale of alcohol on the Outer Banks. How the hell are we supposed to "prepare" for a hurricane if we cant get the number one supply?

    September 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. liveOBXhwy12

    damn.. I promise this is my last blog... but why do people stereotype the Outer Banks and Eastern NC as "hickville, USA"? Have ya'll ever been to Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, especially Guinea or Gloucester, VA or Poquoson, VA? Yes, we do have our share here, but they are more literate, courteous and professional than ya'll could ever be. So jump off the predjudice bandwagon and get an education like the rest of us "hicks".

    September 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. rene ferrell

    i don't knw the finacial situat4on for people in the carolinas but in NO a lot of people just did not have a way to leave. I hope all yall the best.

    September 2, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mario Vaquez

    It's good to see a respectable hurricane this year. Last year was a wash with only a few weak ones hitting land. Hurricanes, like volcanoes are a great source of urban renewal and beach cleaning. Look how well Katrina cleaned up New Orleans. Yes, it was terrible when it happened, but the area is being reborn. It is just ashame this one will not make a square hit on NYC. That would open a great deal of ocean front property to redevelopment.

    Just sit back and watch mother nature work her magic. Heed evacuation orders and use common sense. Property is just stuff and hurricane damage is just an opportunity to do some remodelling.

    September 2, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. yilmael

    I wonder how disastrous a hurricane hittin NYC would be? Nothing here is rated to withstand a cat 4 hurricane, and very few things could withstand a cat 1. Tropical storm winds would destroy a great portion of all the city trees which happen to have shallow root systems and heavy canopy. Power grid would fail due to all the trees snapping them. On top of that, given enough wind and water the subway system could become flooded in some parts. If this thing is gonna hit New England then it's reasonable to assume NYC might get some tropical storm winds. I wish they would cover that.

    September 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DPMan

    I hope we all get slammed, lose power, no water, no food...I hope I'm on the news on my rooftop waiting for a helicopter that will never come. Then, I can sue FEMA and the Government and everyone who didn't help me!!!!! It's the American Way!

    September 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DPMan

    I wish another one would hit New Orleans too, go ahead and finish it off.....and the people, too

    September 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • blondegeisha

      where is all this hate coming from?

      September 2, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. smoothie

    most of you people blogging are idiots. Anyone wishing damage is just stupid. Can we not have an intelligent conversation with positive thoughts and without stupidity . Good luck to all East coast residents. Pray to god this thing doesnt hit New York City. That would be the most detructive hurricane in history , say nothing about New Orleans or 9-11 ! God bless America !

    September 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. lisa

    I have been visiting obx all my life and there is no place like it...we left nags head this morning. Honestly there was no sense of urgency from dare co officials up until the 6 am bulletin. I graduated from UNCW and saw cat 1 and 2 and was scared...there was no way we would be staying with earl looming. I was surprised that they waited so long to issue the mandatory evac...but we had the car already packed. Everyone still there ...be safe and take good care

    September 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. thatguy

    I'm in Oregon and can feel the winds hear! I feel all the winds! I'm the wind feeler! I couldn't do the math equation in the article, but I feel wind!!

    September 2, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • thatguy

      Just went to China, can feel the winds hear, er, here, tooo!!

      September 2, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
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