Hurricane Earl could approach Carolinas Friday

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Hurricane watches are in effect for areas of North Carolina and Virginia, and interests northward to New England are urged to monitor the progress of Hurricane Earl.

Earl is a large storm, with hurricane force winds extending 90 miles from the center and tropical storm force winds extending out 200 miles. The core of the hurricane could approach the North Carolina coast by Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center says.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for Okracoke Island on North Carolina's Outer Banks and Cape Lookout National Seashore. Dare County (N.C.) emergency management officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for all visitors to Hatteras Island Wednesday, CNN reports.

Earl is projected to approach within 60 miles of Cape Hatteras, N.C., early Friday morning, according to CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. Hurricane-force winds will be possible along the Outer Banks beginning early Friday morning and lasting until at least midday, he says. The storm might not make a direct hit on the coast, instead brushing by.

Click here for an animation of the storm's projected track, provided by Sailing Weather Service.

Click here for a hurricane tracker from MSNBC.com

Behind Earl is Tropical Storm Fiona, which was intensifying as it approached the northern Leeward Islands, the hurricane center says.

Fiona is expected to stay well offshore.

The hurricane center says there is an 80 percent chance that a system behind Fiona will become a tropical depression. It would be Gaston if it reaches named-storm status.