Hurricane Earl took aim at North Carolina on Thursday and is on track to lash its barrier islands with dangerous winds and pounding surf before cutting a path up the U.S. East Coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the massive Category 3 storm had top sustained winds of 125 mph after weakening early Thursday.

At least 100,000 people were under evacuation orders from North Carolina’s Outer Banks islands as Earl swirled over the Atlantic about 245 miles south of Cape Hatteras at about 2 p.m. EDT.


While a direct U.S. landfall is not forecast, Earl was due to deliver a stinging blow to the North Carolina coast and further northwards before the Labor Day holiday weekend.

“This is a large system, with impacts well away from the center,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.

He stressed that hurricane-force winds from Earl extended out 90 miles from its core, so it would not need a direct landfall to inflict damage from both wind and high seas.

Forecasters said Earl’s center was expected to be very near southeastern New England on Friday night.

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