Hurricane season is back, and as usual spotlights are on the southeastern part of the country.
This year's first tropical threat is hurricane Earl. Fortunately, it looks like the storm is wandering along the Atlantic side of the east coast, leaving somewhat untouched a Gulf of Mexico still recovering from recent years' damage, and still dealing with the oil spill.
Yet, this can't be good news for everybody. Earl hit the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean early Monday as it strengthened to a Category Two storm, packing high winds, heavy seas and the threat of storm surges. Residents shored up homes and businesses, and stocked up on essential supplies ahead of the passage of the storm near the twin-island state.
The US-based National Hurricane Center said Earl displayed maximum sustained winds of 105 miles (165 kilometers) an hour by 0900 GMT Monday, and additional strength is forecast.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda advised inhabitants of low-lying areas to move to higher ground or into shelters, and urged the public to take all necessary precautions. Antigua's lone international airport closed and the main airline, LIAT, canceled all flights.
A hurricane warning was issued for the US Virgin Islands. They were also posted for Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, St Maarten, Saba, St Eustatius and the British Virgin Islands. TIST airport was preventively shut-down.
The eye of Earl was currently located 50 miles (75 kilometers) east northeast of Saint Martin and 170 miles east of Saint Thomas, heading west-northwest at around 15 miles per hour.
The hurricane center said the storm surge would raise water levels in areas where there were hurricane warnings by as much as two to four feet above ground level, primarily near the coast.
In the next days, Earl is forecast to skirt northeast of Puerto Rico, the island of Hispaniola -- comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- and Cuba, although the Caribbean islands are likely to be buffeted by heavy rains and strong winds from the storm.
With the Caribbean being so much under Earl's threat, business is taking measures to avoid troubles. Royal Caribbean cruise lines, for instance, have altered some of the Caribbean sea itineraries to prevent ships from running into affected areas.
Current forecast models have the storm reaching 600 miles (970 kilometers) east of the North Carolina on the eastern US coastline early Friday, but it is unclear if it will make landfall. In view of such event, on 09/01, a hurrican warning was issued for the Hatteras Islands, NC.
Meanwhile, the Category One hurricane Danielle, which never made landfall, continued to weaken as it sailed towards the open waters of the north Atlantic.