As Hurricane Earl nears the U.S. east coast, many observers are wondering what this storm, which comes five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast, will do, and whether we are ready. Earl's impact was widely feared to be highly destructive, but the hurricane's downgrade from category four to category three has assuaged much of the concern. A forecast by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reproduced below, predicts the storm may sweep past much of the east-coast population centers, although they say North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland remain at risk. Here are the predictions for what could happen next.

  • Where It Will Hit and When Bloomberg News's Brian Sullivan explains that Earl "is on a path that would take it just past Cape Hatteras early on Sept. 3 and then to Nantucket and Massachusetts's Cape Cod before hitting Canada the next day, according to the center. The current track shows the storm going ashore near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on the morning of Sept. 4, according to the website of the Canadian Hurricane Centre." Sullivan says North Carolina and Massachusetts are currently the most at risk. "Earl may cause insured losses of $100 million, catastrophe forecaster Eqecat Inc. said in a statement on its website yesterday. Losses may approach $500 million if the storm moves 100 miles closer to the mainland, the company said."
  • Virgin Islanders: It Wasn't So Bad At StormCarib.com, U.S. Virgin Island locals posted their happy surprise as the storm passed without too much damage. "There are a few branches down, but very little damage reported at this point during the passing of Hurricane Earl. There are wind gusts reported around 40 mphs, and that has been ongoing, but limited rain. Power has been off and on, mainly off right now. Internet is spotty if at all." Later, "Everyone I've been in contact with still has hard-line phone service -- and that is great news. If I hear anything noteworthy, I will pass it along. We are grateful that are friends have made it through."
  • Evacuations Begin at Outer Banks The BBC reports, "President Barack Obama said officials needed to be ready for a 'worst case' scenario in a call to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema). One island in North Carolina's Outer Banks is being evacuated and visitors are being asked to leave another. The narrow islands are served by a single main road and officials worry that waves washing over it will cause danger to travellers." Earl is expected to hit the Carolina vacation spot by Friday morning.
  • Baltimore Braces for Impact The Baltimore Sun's Liz Kay writes, "The National Hurricane Center has posted a Hurricane Watch for the Maryland and Delaware coasts as Hurricane Earl continued to track toward the Carolinas with top winds of 125 mph. The Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions -- including winds in excess of 73 mph -- are possible in the watch zone within 48 hours. ... Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other officials urged city residents to gather supplies like water, flashlights and batteries in case high winds and rain from Hurricane Earl and Tropical Storm Fiona flood roads and take down power lines."
  • At Least Gulf Coast Will Be Spared Gawker's Maureen O'Connor sighs, "Hurricane Earl is 'gathering strength' off the coast of Puerto Rico, and may send squalls all the way to Maine this week. Earl has kindly agreed to leave the Gulf coast alone, though, because it's got enough to deal with."

Can I write the Hurricane-Earl-Is-Obama's-Hurricane-Katrina piece? Or do I have to wait for Earl to make landfall? What's protocol?less than a minute ago via web