More National Parks Brace for Hurricane Earl

This 2:00 a.m. Friday, September 3, 2010, NOAA forecast for Hurricane Earl windspeeds provides plenty of grist for worry in southern New England and along the Middle Atlantic coast.

As Hurricane Earl assails North Carolina's Outer Banks, producing damaging winds, rough surf, overwash, and beach erosion at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and nearby parks, Cape Cod National Seashore and other coastal parks in the Middle Atlantic and New England regions get ready for the powerful storm's arrival.

According to the National Hurricane Center, at 8:00 a.m. EDT on Friday, September 3, Hurricane Earl was positioned about 130 miles ENE of Cape Hatteras and packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Moving NNE at a speed of 18 mph, the powerful storm was heading, as expected, along an axis that will insure that its impacts are felt along a very large stretch of the Middle Atlantic and Northeast coastlines.

Hurricane warnings are currently in effect from Cape Lookout, North Carolina northeastward to the North Carolina/Virginia border (including Pamlico Sound and eastern Albemarle Sound) and from Westport, Massachusetts eastward around Cape Cod to Hull, Massachusetts,including Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket Island. Forecasters have concluded that the southern New England coastline is especially vulnerable, and that Earl's heaviest impacts are likely to occur in the Cape Cod-Nantucket-Marthas Vineyard vicinity by late tonight and early Saturday.

Forecasters believe that Earl could still be a hurricane (albeit only a Category 1) by the time it arrives in New England, so this is a serious situation. In addition to heavy rains, strong winds, and pounding surf, a storm surge of two to four feet is expected in the hurricane warning area.

The oceanward-jutting position of Cape Cod National Seashore in southern New England puts it squarely in the storm's crosshairs. All of the park's beaches, parking lots, buildings, and visitor facilities -- including the Salt Pond Visitor Center and the Province Lands Visitor Center -- were closed at 9:00 this morning.

The Middle Atlantic coast stretching from Virginia to New Jersey/New York will not be as heavily impacted. However, a tropical storm warning is in effect from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Sandy Hook, New Jersey (including Delaware Bay south of Slaughter Beach and the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort).

Further north and east, tropical storm warnings have also been issued for the coast of Long Island (New York) from Fire Island Inlet eastward; the south shore and Port Jefferson Harbor eastward on the north shore; New Haven, Connecticut to west of Westport, Massachusetts (including Block Island); north of Hull, Massachusetts, to the Merrimack River; Stonington, Maine, eastward to Eastport, Maine. (In Canada, the tropical storm warning extends as far north as Prince Edward Island.)

Assateague Island National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Fire Island National Seashore are among the many NPS units in these lesser-threatened zones.