* Northeast turn expected on Thursday -hurricane center
* Any delay in turn occurring could worsen storm effects
MIAMI, Sept 1 The head of the U.S. National
Hurricane Center said on Wednesday he was highly confident
Hurricane Earl would veer to the northeast starting late on
Thursday, which should keep the worst of the storm from the
U.S. East Coast.
Still, the Category 3 storm is expected to bring extremely
high waves, surf and rip currents to the U.S. East Coast in the
coming days, Hurricane Center Director Bill Read told reporters
in a conference call.
Earl, currently churning through the open Atlantic east of
the Bahamas, had top sustained winds of 125 mph (205 kph), with
hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 90 miles (150
km). Its tropical storm-force winds reached out as far as 200
miles (325 km).
The storm was expected to approach close to North
Carolina's Outer Banks island chain late on Thursday. While the
expected northeast turn at that point should keep the center of
Earl at sea and parallel to the U.S. eastern seaboard, any
delay in the turn would mean greater weather impact for coastal
areas, Read said.
"If the turns occur a little bit later than we're
forecasting it could bring more of a threat at that time to
extreme eastern Long Island or southeastern New England," the
hurricane center chief said.
Read said Earl was producing "incredibly high seas" as it
barreled across the Atlantic. A 50-foot wave was registered
overnight by a U.S. weather service buoy.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig
Fugate said U.S. President Barack Obama had been briefed on
emergency preparations for Earl's approach.
There was a possibility Earl could intensify.
"The chance over the next 24 hours of a change in intensity
on the upscale still exists. We're over the warmest water,"
(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher and Tom Brown; Writing by Kevin
Gray; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Bill Trott)