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Hurricane Earl not expected to make landfall in Virginia; Emergency officials ask for residents to stay tuned to weather reports
A satellite image shows a Category 4 Hurricane Earl barreling toward the U.S. coast early yesterday.
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By KELLY HANNON
Hurricane Earl may never reach Virginia, apart from stirring up strong winds, rough surf and rip currents. But the powerful Category 4 storm is causing uncertainty for anyone traveling over Labor Day weekend.
The three-day holiday was expected to a mini-boom for the tourism industry.
Before news of Hurricane Earl's potential to skim the East Coast was known, AAA Mid-Atlantic predicted Labor Day travel in Virginia would increase 9 percent over last Labor Day, and 10 percent nationwide. The average traveler was expected to spend $697.
"This is generally the holiday when a lot of people head to the beach for the last hurrah of summer, sun and fun, and if the storm does indeed move further inland, that could impact those vacations and may cause some people to cancel," said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Martha M. Meade.
As recently as yesterday evening, Hurricane Earl was forecast to remain off the coast of eastern Virginia tomorrow and Friday.
In North Carolina, Hurricane Earl would have a "close approach" to Cape Hatteras tomorrow and tomorrow evening, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said. Still, federal and state emergency planners want the public to pay attention to the storm.
Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate acknowledged the holiday weekend as he spoke to reporters in a conference call yesterday.
He advised families in its potential path to stock up on disaster supplies now and decide on a plan, such as where their family will go
"We do not have a forecasted landfall, but this is a very large system. We do expect impacts along the coast," Fugate said.
The state Department of Emergency Management has posted maps on its website, vdem.state.va.us, that show coastal areas that might need to be evacuated, depending on the strength of hurricane, and the routes evacuees should take.
Virginia's Hampton Roads area and Eastern Shore is in the "cone of error" for Hurricane Earl, state Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner said.
"Right now it's forecast to miss us, but it's awfully close," Spieldenner said.
FEMA has teams ready to deploy to states from Virginia to Maine, and already has an official coordinating with North Carolina.