Hurricanes get our attention in New England when they take aim at Cape Hatteras because that means they might well land on our shores next. Fortunately, Earl didn't quite make landfall at Hatteras last night, and it looks as if its hurricane-force winds will mostly stay east of New England. How do I know? I haven't been watching the TV news or the Weather Channel; I've been at my desk in Newport, Rhode Island, trading links with my boating friends.
This tracker from Sailing Weather Services isn't always available for free, so if you're reading this later, you might not be able to see the stop-action animation and the way it shows the millibars around the low pressure so I can see which way the wind is going to blow. Southeast this afternoon as it approaches, east and northeast as Earl goes by us to the southeast, then northwest and west, filling the vaccuum left by this big storm after it departs.
The truth is that I haven't been at my desk the whole time. I've been down at Newport Harbor every day, prepping our 30-foot boat for high winds and thinking, "OK, even if the hurricane seems likely to miss Newport, how strong will the winds be, and how long will they last as they shift around from southeast to northwest?" Our mooring is in Brenton Cove, but it will get rough there when the wind shifts north and northwest.
I've been watching storm tracks like the one above at StormPulse.com, which shows you all the different weather model predictions for the storm track if you click on the "on" button in the upper righthand corner (not shown) — plus I've been monitoring Sailflow, WeatherUnderground, NOAA marine forecasts, and the National Hurricane Center. And you can be sure I've been talking with half a dozen boating friends whose opinion I respect—and some of them have private data sources, such as Commander's Weather, a weather service used by many sailors.
As I write, I don't know how windy it will be tonight. The storm has weakened according to recent reports, and its track has shifted a little farther east of Nantucket than previously forecast. Although my friends out on the island are still expecting hurricane-force winds, every mile the storm veers eastward is good for all of us. Here, the winds could be anywhere from 25 to 50 knots and our boat, Grace, is going to be pitching hard for several hours. We don't think the winds will be excessively strong for too long, but obviously, there are no guarantees, and I'm sure I'll wake up a few times tonight thinking about the boat.
It's a funny way to get set for a holiday weekend. Lots of "hurricane adrenalin" in the air and a sense that everything is kind of on hold until Earl makes his pass. Hopefully everyone's boats will be intact on Saturday morning, so we can all enjoy the last big weekend of the New England summer.