With an area of projected impact stretching from the Carolinas to Maine, Hurricane Earl is causing widespread consternation for coastal residents and the insurance industry that protects them.

While the storm, currently a Category 4 hurricane, already has tallied million in damages in the Leeward Islands, its potential to inflict harm on the Mid-Atlantic Coast is considerable. Tracking north-northwest, Earl is expected to approach within 75 miles of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras on Friday morning, at Category 3 strength. When Hurricane Floyd made landfall in North Carolina in 1999 it caused estimated insured losses of $2 billion in 1999 dollars.

“Even without making direct landfall, coastal areas of the Outer Banks are likely to feel Earl’s impact, including tropical storm force winds and high waves,” notes Dr. Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at Boston-based AIR Worldwide. “If Earl tracks further west, storm surge could pose a real threat. Results of AIR’s analysis show that for the left-most National Hurricane Center (NHC) track, the greatest surge risk will be along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The risk diminishes substantially if Earl tracks along the central portion of the NHC cone of uncertainty.” 

Yet, even if Earl bypasses North Carolina, areas further north will remain at risk. Newark, Calif.-based Risk Management Solutions notes the “U.S. east coast is likely to experience tropical storm force winds as the system moves north over the subsequent 24 hours, brushing Cape Cod in 48 hours time – though Earl is forecast to weaken as it heads further north, and could be as low as a category one or category two as it passes Cape Cod and Rhode Island on Saturday morning.”

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