Hurricane Earl lashed northern Leeward Islands with heavy rain and strong winds starting Monday and after strengthened into a Category 2 – storm. Hotels were shut tightly overnight as tourists sought shelter inside their rooms.
The Hurricane could become a major hurricane Monday night or early Tuesday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“It is possible that Earl could become a Category 4 hurricane as we get into the middle to late portions of the week,” hurricane center specialist Michael Brennan said.
Hurricane warnings were in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, the British Virgin Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Steady bands of rain began falling late Sunday on islands including Antigua, where the Grand Pineapple Beach Resort on the north side battened down early as a precaution.
Earlier Sunday, islanders stocked up on food, water and supplies, set up shelters and tied down boats in harbors across the northern Carribean as Earl blew toward the region.
Antigua’s V.C. Bird International Airport closed, and regional airlines LIAT and Winair suspended flights. Cruise ships diverted to other ports in the Caribbean and Mexico to avoid the storm’s path.
In St. Kitts and Nevis, authorities urged people to take all necessary precautions for the hurricane, which is dwarfing the tiny island nations and territories of the northern Caribbean.
Earl became a hurricane Sunday morning and has continued to grow rapidly in strength, fueled by warm ocean temperatures of 86 F (30 C).
Forecasters say there is a chance the hurricane could brush the U.S. Mid-Atlantic Region toward the end of the week, with its closest approach to North Carolina on Thursday.
Anyways, the U.S. East Coast is likely to see pounding surf.