Image courtesy NOAA

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Hurricane Earl's path is expected to avoid the U.S., according to a government five-day forecast.

Image courtesy NOAA

Hurricane Earl's Path to Skirt U.S.—No Hurricane Fiona?

As weather systems repel Hurricane Earl from the U.S. East Coast, tropical storm Fiona forms but may not become a hurricane.

A low-pressure system moving over the Great Lakes and southeastern Canada will bend Hurricane Earl's path away from the U.S. East Coast, meteorologists say.

That's a good thing, considering that, as of late Monday afternoon, Earl was raging with sustained winds of about 135 miles (215 kilometers) an hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Similar conditions may help keep tropical storm Fiona—which formed Monday afternoon—at bay too, according to meteorologist Keith Blackwell of the University of South Alabama's Coastal Weather Research Center.

"The weather system and its associated upper-level jet stream winds are pushing Earl off the East Coast," Blackwell said.

But Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (map), and Cape Cod, Massachusetts (map)—which jut well into the Atlantic Ocean—likely will feel winds of at least 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour as Hurricane Earl churns past later this week, Blackwell said.

And though Earl is expected to weaken, it could make landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada (map), this weekend as a Category 1 hurricane, meaning it would have winds of at least 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour, he said.

Hurricane Earl Now Category 4

Born as a tropical wave that blew off western Africa on August 25, Hurricane Earl became the fifth named storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season Sunday.

Earl strengthened quickly into a hurricane as it approached Puerto Rico (map), where Earl made landfall today with winds of about 125 miles (200 kilometers) an hour.

As of Monday afternoon, Hurricane Earl's status has been upgraded to Category 4, meaning the hurricane has winds of 135 miles (215 kilometers) an hour or greater.

Hurricane Earl to Prevent Hurricane Fiona?

Hurricanes draw their strength from warm ocean waters, and Earl is expected to remain a powerful hurricane as it churns northward, because northern Atlantic waters are unusually warm this year.

The same factors pushing and powering Hurricane Earl are expected to remain in place for days, so tropical storm Fiona is likely to stay offshore of the U.S.

But Fiona is unlikely to grow into Hurricane Fiona, Blackwell said, because winds from the more powerful Hurricane Earl will probably disrupt the new storm.

If Fiona gets too close to Earl, he said, "Earl might eat it."

Hurricane Earl, Fiona Only the Beginning?

Despite a relatively slow start, the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be very active. (See "Dramatic Increase in Hurricanes Likely Coming This Month.")

Before the season ends on November 30, a hurricane could very well form in the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico, he said—greatly increasing the chances of a U.S. landfall.

"The Caribbean and the Gulf," Blackwell added, "are warm as toast."