Hurricane Earl downgraded but the U.S. remains on alert

States along America’s heavily-populated Eastern Seaboard have declared emergencies as Hurricane Earl rages off the coast of North Carolina. Despite the storm has been downgraded to a category 2, warnings have been issued in areas as far north as Nova Scotia in Canada.

Forecasters warned that the potentially deadly hurricane could move north over the weekend, bringing chaos to America’s Labour Day holiday weekend and cancelling flights.

Millions of holidaymakers who usually head for the beaches during the last weekend of the U.S. summer season were told to keep a close watch on the hurricane’s development.

Popular holiday areas around Cape Cod and Nantucket Island were told to expect fallen power lines and trees over the Labour Day holiday weekend. Meanwhile those in New York’s
Long Island, Connecticut and Maine were told Earl may only be a tropical storm by the time it reached them.

The warnings from the National Hurricane Centre in Miami came as forecasters hoped the main force of the storm, which caused disruption in the north-east Caribbean earlier this week, would remain off shore as it hit cooler waters.

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On Wednesday, Barack Obama authorised federal co-ordination of disaster measures.

Last night, the winds had slowed to 105mph (category 2) from 140mph early yesterday (category 4, one short of the most powerful category 5). But forecasters warned that it remained powerful, with hurricane-force winds of 74mph or more extending 70 miles from its centre and tropical storm-force winds of at least 35mph reaching more than 200 miles out.

Earl has already pummelled the Bahamas and eastern Caribbean with rain and heavy winds that downed trees, damaged homes, blocked roads and snapped power lines earlier this week.