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Hurricane Earl downgraded, headed to Northeast

Hurricane Earl was downgraded to a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, but as it makes his way up the East Coast, the storm is expected to hammer the Mid-Atlantic and New England coastlines this weekend with wind, rain and a strong storm surge and rip currents.

Conditions were expected to improve on the Outer Banks of North Carolina this morning as Earl moves north-northeast at 18 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"It's been sort of a brush-by blow," Mark Van Sciver, a spokesman for North Carolina's Emergency Operations Center, told the media. He said there were no reports of injuries or deaths. Some power outages were reported.

At 5 a.m., Earl was about 85 miles east of Cape Hatteras.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for Cape Lookout, N.C., northeast to the North Carolina/Virginia border, and for Westport, Mass., eastward around Cape Cod, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for north of the North Carolina/Virginia border to Sandy Hook, N.J.; the coast of Long Island, N.Y.; New Haven, Conn., to west of Westport, Mass., including Block Island; and up into Maine and the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.

The center of Earl will approach southern New England tonight, the hurricane center reports. Slow weakening is forecast during the next 24 to 36 hours, but Earl remains a large storm, with hurricane-force winds extending out 70 miles and tropical storm-force winds extending 205 miles.

Forecasters expect the full fury of the storm to pass just southeast of Nantucket as a Category 1 or 2 storm, enveloping the island, Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod and portions of southeastern Massachusetts in hurricane-force winds gusting up to 100 miles per hour and bringing possible flash floods, the Boston Globe reports.

"If it's a perfect forecast, the eye is going to come very close to Nantucket,'' Bill Read, director of the hurricane center, told the newspaper. "The eye is going to be huge by then.''

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri made a similar emergency declaration. In neighboring Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked President Obama to issue a pre-landfall declaration of emergency to ensure federal funding help with the storm response.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Fiona, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, continues to pose no immediate threat to the U.S. coast, although a tropical storm warning remains in effect for Bermuda.

Tropical Storm Gaston has dissipated and the hurricane center is issuing no further public advisories about it.

Click here to track Earl and Fiona.

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