Hurricane Danielle
© Associated Press/Weather UndergroundThis NOAA satellite image taken Saturday, Aug 28, 2010 at 03:00 AM EDT shows clouds associated with Hurricane Danielle as it begins to track northeastward as a Category 3 storm. It may regain Category 4 status on Saturday, but will weaken as it remains away from any major landmasses. Tropical Storm Earl is to the southeast of Hurricane Danielle and is moving westward. Clouds in the Gulf of Mexico are producing some showers along the Gulf Coast
Islanders set up emergency shelters and cancelled flights on Sunday as newly born Hurricane Earl churned toward the northern Caribbean. Cruise lines diverted ships to avoid the storm's path.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that Earl, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), could hit the northern Leeward Islands as soon as Sunday night. It could become a major hurricane by Tuesday - probably while north of Puerto Rico.

People on several islands stuffed shopping carts with bottled water, canned food, milk, candles and batteries, while some tourists scrambled to board flights home. Others enjoyed the beach while they could.

"I'm just trying get a good suntan in while the weather is still co-operating," said Linda Curren of New York City, sunbathing on San Juan's Ocean Park beach as a few surfers paddled into pounding waves.

In Antigua, the V.C. Bird International Airport was set to close Sunday, while regional airline LIAT suspended several flights. Cruise ships diverted to other ports in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Hardware stores were doing a brisk business in plywood and boards as jittery residents and employees of gleaming tourist hotels prepared to safeguard windows and doors.

"We haven't been hit for quite a few years, but you may never know - this might be the time," said Ashley Benta, from the Antiguan town of Gray's Farm.

Fishermen and yacht owners tied down vessels in harbours scattered the northern Caribbean.

"We're watching and waiting at this point," said June Otway, a manager of Puerto Del Rey, a 1,100-slip marina in northeastern Puerto Rico.

Earl could bring battering waves and storm surge of up to three feet (one meter) above normal tide levels in some areas, according to forecasters. Heavy rains could cause flash floods and mudslides. Forecasters said Earl had several bands of thunderstorms wrapped around its centre.

Near midday Sunday, Earl was about 225 miles (360 kilometres) east of Antigua. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 30 miles (45 kilometres) from its centre.

Meanwhile, the Category 1 Hurricane Danielle was bringing dangerous rip currents to the U.S. East Coast. It was gradually weakening as it spun over the open Atlantic northeast of the British territory of Bermuda.