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Latest developments on Hurricane Earl

By the CNN Wire Staff

Cape Cod, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Here are the latest developments on Hurricane Earl.

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Hurricane Earl has dropped to a Category 1 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The hurricane, according to an 11 a.m. ET report from the National Hurricane Center, was centered roughly 175 miles northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was registering maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving north-northeast at 21 miles per hour. Various storm warnings were in effect from North Carolina to Nova Scotia.

The "steadily weakening" storm may be below hurricane-level strength by the time it passes southern New England on Friday night, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said.

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CNN meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said the eye of the storm no longer exists. The storm is "starting to lose some of its structure," Wolf said. We can still anticipate "very large waves" in many spots.

"It is a dying storm, but is still a force to be reckoned with," Wolf said.

Residents of New York and New England are bracing for a potential onslaught from Hurricane Earl, which earlier lashed the North Carolina coastline with high winds and 35-foot waves.

Sean O'Brien, an emergency planning coordinator from Cape Cod's Barnstable County, told CNN's "American Morning" that emergency shelters had been opened in the area, and that local residents should expect tropical storm force winds. "We will see power outages," he warned.

Bill Wilkinson, supervisor of the town of Easthampton on Long Island, told CNN conditions could get "pretty treacherous" over the next 12 to 24 hours.

The storm is expected to approach southeastern New England on Friday night.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Bogue Inlet, North Carolina, northeastward to the border with Virginia, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. It is also in effect for Westport, Massachusetts, eastward around Cape Cod to Hull, including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

Storm surges from Earl can raise water levels by 3 to 5 feet above ground level within hurricane warning areas and in the Lower Chesapeake Bay.

The surge will be accompanied by large, destructive waves near the coast.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre has issued a hurricane watch for Nova Scotia from Medway Harbour to Digby and a tropical storm watch for Nova Scotia from Ecum Secum to Medway Harbour and from Digby to Fort Lawrence.

Total rainfall of between 2 and 4 inches is expected, with up to 6 inches possible in some areas.

Hurricane Earl battered North Carolina's barrier island early Friday, but North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said her state had apparently "dodged the bullet." There had been no loss of life and seemed to be minimal damage from the Category 2 hurricane, she told CNN.

"In multiple locations, waves have crashed over the tops of the dunes and is now flooding several portions of the main state highway on both the north and south sides through the Outer Banks. This is all happening south of the area called the Oregon Inlet," CNN's David Mattingly reported from the community of Waves. "The water is six to eight inches deep and seems to be getting deeper by the minute."

Ben McNeely from Charlotte, North Carolina, was riding the storm out in the community of Manteo, a few miles away from Mattingly on another island that is sheltered by barrier islands.

"We're in the middle of the island," McNeely said. "Surf's up, waves are up ... We're fully surrounded by water."

"An increase in forward speed and a turn toward the northeast are expected in the next 12 to 24 hours," the center said. "On the forecast track ... the center of Earl will move away from the North Carolina Outer Banks today ... and will approach southeastern New England tonight."

Warnings and watches stretched from North Carolina to Canada, including Massachusetts, where a hurricane warning was issued for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and the surrounding area.

Officials in coastal Dare County, North Carolina, expanded mandatory evacuation orders for visitors starting Thursday evening. The evacuation order extends to residents in some areas, including South Nags Head and Hatteras Island.

Dare County schools and courts are closed Friday.

Large swells from Earl are forecast to continue to affect the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States through Friday, the hurricane center said. "These swells will likely cause dangerous surf conditions and rip currents," forecasters said.