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Latest timeline: Earl to strike N.C., Va. in middle of night

Weather Channel meteorologist Bill Karins says the latest projections show Earl coming closest to Cape Hatteras, N.C., and the Virginia coastal cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach about 3 a.m. ET. Earl's a sprinter, though, so those projections will likely change several times today.

From there, Earl will track northeastward parallel with the Eastern Seaboard. Projections have it closest to Long Island, N.Y., and Nantucket Island, Mass., sometime around 6 p.m. ET tomorrow.

Even though the best guess right now is that the hurricane itself won't come ashore — meaning there won't be a lot of rain — Karins says Earl's weaker backside will still pack a powerful punch, with winds near 100 mph.

"There will be damage," he warns.