BUXTON, North Carolina — Hurricane Earl barreled toward the US East Coast on Thursday with winds swirling at around 140 mph (225 kph).
Forecasters were trying to pinpoint how close the strongest winds and heaviest surge would get to North Carolina's fragile chain of barrier islands, and whether the storm would threaten parts of the Northeast.
Already, the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland had declared states of emergency as Earl whirled into a powerful Category 4 storm. The highest storm category is 5 that has winds of 156 mph (251 kph) and higher.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane warning for part of the Massachusetts coast including Nantucket and a tropical storm warning along the Connecticut and Rhode Island coasts into Massachusetts.
Earl's first encounter with the US mainland should come around midnight Thursday, as the storm is forecast to pass just off North Carolina's Cape Hatteras, bringing wind gusts of up to 100 mph (161 kph).