Earl reached hurricane strength less than an hour ago, according to data obtained by a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft investigating the system.
At 7:30 am Central Time this morning...the center of Earl was located about 365 miles East of the northernmost Leeward Islands. The system was moving West at 18 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.
Earl is expected to continue on a general Westward track today, with a gradual turn toward the West/Northwest tonight and Monday.
On the current forecast track, the center of the system will pass to the North of Puerto Rico sometime early Tuesday morning. The extent of hurricane force winds from the center at that time will be critical in determining whether strong winds will affect Puerto Rico. A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico at this time...meaning that hurricane force winds are possible within 48 hours.
In the longer term, Earl is forecast to become a major hurricane by Wednesday, and is expected to be located to the East of the Bahamas at that time. The $64,000 question is, of course, what track will Earl take beyond that point in time?
At present, most computer forecast models call for Earl to be curved off toward a more Northerly track once the system reaches the midway point between Florida and Bermuda. This track would spare the Southeast U.S. of any threat.
Beyond that point in time (now we're talking the end of the week and first part of the Labor Day weekend), a trough of low pressure is forecast to move across the Northeast U.S. Earl's interaction with this trough would be critical in determining whether any threat will exist for the Northeast U.S./New England area.
Residents all along the U.S. East Coast (and Bermuda) should remain alert this week and monitor the latest forecasts on the expected track of Earl.