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Earl's winds now at 145 mph; track unchanged

A powerful and dangerous Hurricane Earl continued to steam toward the North Carolina Outer Banks early Thursday, with winds strengthening to 145 mph overnight. A Hurricane Watch and Tropical Storm Warnings are posted for all of the Maryland and Delaware Atlantic coastline.

If forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are right, the Cat. 4 storm's center, and its most dangerous effects, will stay offshore as the storm track curves gradually to the northeast and toward southeastern New England.

Weather service forecasters in Wakefield, Va. expect weather conditions in Ocean City will begin to deteriorate today, with winds peaking late Thursday and Friday between 29 and 34 mph, with gusts to 44 mph.

Here's more of the Tropical Storm Warning posted for the Delmarva region:

"OVER THE TIDEWATER REGION ALONG SOUTHERN CHESAPEAKE BAY...STORM SURGE
VALUES EXPECTED TO PEAK BETWEEN 1.5 AND 3 FEET DURING HIGH TIDE
FRIDAY AFTERNOON...WHICH WOULD RESULT IN MINOR TO MODERATE COASTAL
FLOODING. NEITHER EXCESSIVE RAINFALL NOR TORNADOES ARE EXPECTED TO
POSE A THREAT TO THE WARNED AREAS. PERIODS OF HEAVY RAIN ARE
EXPECTED TO BRING BETWEEN 1 AND 2 INCHES OF TOTAL RAINFALL OVER
MOST OF THE WARNED AREAS..."

The weather service is also warning of dangerous surf conditions and rip currents, with large battering waves rising to between 14 and 18 feet on Friday as the storm passes. Beach erosion and overwash is most likely farther south.

Back here in the Baltimore and Washington areas, Earl is not expected to be a factor. The Baltimore forecast calls for sunny to partly cloudy conditions, with no rain and only light breezes.

There are some advisories up. Coastal Flood Advisories are up for the western shore of the Chesapeake, and the tidal Potomac, as winds out of the south and a falling barometer ahead of Earl raise high tide levels in the bay one foot above normal today, and 1 to 3 feet above normal on Friday. Here are some high tide times for Maryland:

"ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY...
HAVRE DE GRACE...4:26 AM AND 4:25 PM...
BOWLEY BAR...2:03 PM AND 3:04 AM...
FORT MCHENRY BALTIMORE...1:12 PM AND 2:13 AM...
ANNAPOLIS U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY...11:42 AM AND 12:43 AM...
CHESAPEAKE BEACH...10:25 AM AND 11:26 PM...
SOLOMONS ISLAND...8:34 AM AND 9:35 PM...
POINT LOOKOUT...7:44 AM AND 8:45 PM..."

It all sounds reassuring. But that's when forecasters issue this reminder:

"CONFIDENCE IS INCREASING THAT
EARL SHOULD FOLLOW SUCH A TRACK THAT MINIMIZES THE IMPACT HERE.
HOWEVER...ANY SIGNIFICANT WESTWARD SHIFT IN TRACK WOULD WORSEN THE
IMPACT ON THE AREA. PLEASE REFER TO THE LATEST STATEMENTS FROM THE
NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON EARL.
"
Here is the latest forecast advisory on Earl. Here is the forecast storm track. Here is the view from orbit.

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