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.
The hurricane has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday night, but warned that "Earl is expected to remain a large and strong hurricane as it passes near the Outer Banks" of North Carolina.
Hurricane warnings and watches stretched from North Carolina to Delaware and into Massachusetts, where a hurricane warning was issued for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and the surrounding area. A hurricane watch was also issued for the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. Tropical storm watches and warnings were in effect for most other coastal areas between North Carolina and Nova Scotia.
President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina on Wednesday evening. The action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts and makes federal funds available. Maryland's governor issued an emergency declaration earlier in the day.