The first bands of rain from Hurricane Earl are starting to hit North Carolina's Outer Banks.
The downpours started Thursday night in several bursts as the storm's so-called rain shield whirled into the southernmost tip of the barrier islands.
National Weather Service meteorologist Hal Austin said the eye of the hurricane is expected to get as close as 55 miles east of the Outer Banks at about 2 a.m. Friday. The coast is expected to be lashed by winds of more than 74 mph for a couple of hours.
Austin says that most wind hitting land will be the strength of a tropical storm, or in excess of 39 mph, with some stronger gusts.
The sustained tropical storm winds are not expected to reach farther inland than Morehead City.
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