Late Thursday, Hurricane Earl will be within striking distance of North Carolina. Earl is expected to turn northwards right before the coast and not make landfall, but that remains to be seen. When predicted to make the turn, any delays in as little as a six hour time window will determine if the Hurricane will cross onto land or not, and at what force.
Earl had been classified as a Category 4 hurricane, but is now Category 3. However, despite being downgraded, it is still a major storm. Hurricane warnings are in effect in North Carolina, with tropical storm warnings up the coast.
Airlines have made announcements preparing travelers to expect delays or cancellations. Continental Airlines in particular is offering penalty-free changes to itineraries affected up to and through September 5th.
Evacuation orders have been issued for islands along the eastern seaboard. Coastal residents in general need to prepare for Earl, as even without landfall the hurricane’s effects will reach the mainland.
A fully charged cell phone is a necessity, and a smartphone can have multiple emergency uses. It can be used to stay informed of Earl’s progress through weather websites with up-to-the-minute tracking. Two-way, push-to-talk radios and cell phones are good to have as communications alternatives. And some smartphone models even have a flashlight app.
Have an evacuation plan ready for the family, including rally points, and communication contingencies. A Google Groups or similar collaboration site is perfect for emergency family planning and communication, and in case of separation can be used anywhere with internet access.