Hurricane Earl could approach Carolinas Friday

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Hurricane watches are in effect, and evacuations have begun, for areas of North Carolina, and interests northward to New England are urged to monitor the progress of Hurricane Earl.

Earl is now a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It's a large storm, with hurricane force winds extending 90 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extending out 200 miles.

The core of the hurricane will be passing well east and northeast of the Bahamas today and tonight, and it could approach the North Carolina coast by Friday morning, the hurricane center said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Okracoke Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks and Cape Lookout National Seashore. Dare County (N.C.) emergency management officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for all visitors to Hatteras Island on Wednesday, effective immediately, CNN reports.

Earl will approach within 60 miles of Cape Hatteras, N.C., early Friday morning, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. Hurricane-force winds will be possible along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, beginning early on Friday morning and lasting until at least midday, he said.

Earl might not make a direct hit on the coast, instead brushing by.

Click here for an animation of the storm's projected track, provided by Sailing Weather Service.

Behind Earl is Tropical Storm Fiona, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. This storm is intensifying as it approaches the northern Leeward Islands, the hurricane center said.

Fiona is expected to stay well offshore.

Also out in the eastern Atlantic is Tropical Depression Nine, with maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour. No warnings or watches are in effect with this storm, whch could become Tropical Storm Gaston in the next day or so.

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