Hurricane Earl continued on a northward course Thursday that should put the Cat. 4 storm off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay by 8 a.m. Friday. Forecasters say the storm will begin to weaken, but its wind field will expand.
That might account for the increase in wind speeds forecast for Ocean City Thursday night and Friday. National Weather Service forecasters in Wakefield, Va. now say the Maryland resort should prepare for east winds to increase to between 17 and 22 mph tonight, with gusts to 28 mph.
On Friday, forecasters said, winds at the resorts should swing around to the north as the storm pulls abreast of the Delmarva Peninsula, increasing to between 33 and 43 mph, with tropical-storm-force gusts to 55 mph. As much as an inch of rain is forecast for Ocean City during the period. The chances the resort will experience tropical-storm force winds during the storm were put at 59 percent.
Rough surf and dangerous currents are a given, as battering waves rise to a predicted 14 to 18 feet. (Baltimore's forecast, by the way, remains just fine.)
A Tropical Storm Warning and Hurricane Watch remain in effect for the Maryland and Delaware costs and the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
The brunt of Hurricane Earl's power is expected to be felt in eastern North Carolina, and in southeastern Massachusetts, where Hurricane Warnings are posted. Nantucket Island is being warned to expect winds of 80 mph and gusts to 105 Friday night.
At 11 a.m., the center of Hurricane Earl was located about 300 miles south of Cape Hatteras, moving to the north at 18 mph. An increase in speed and a turn to the north northeast were both expected on Friday. The storm's top sustained winds were estimated at 140 mph. A slow weakening is expected as the storm moves into a region of increased wind shear and cooler waters.