Hurricane Earl Brushes Carolina Coast; Warnings Issued for Massachusetts

Hurricane Earl passed east of North Carolina's Outer Banks this evening, sending bands of wind and rain raking over the North Carolina coast.

Though it was downgraded this evening to a Category 2 storm and forecast to weaken slowly as it moved northward, officials up and down the East Coast still were bracing for a powerful punch.

By 11 p.m. ET, Earl was about 115 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., according to the National Hurricane Center (NOAA). The eye of the storm was expected to stay offshore for now.

President Obama signed an emergency disaster declaration for Massachusetts late Thursday. Earlier, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm after officials extended a hurricane warning to the state's southern coast. He said the declaration will help Massachusetts respond to the storm, expected to pass the area late Friday into Saturday.

Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri made a similar emergency declaration, The Associated Press reported.

In neighboring Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell asked President Obama to issue a pre-landfall declaration of emergency to ensure federal funding help with the storm response.

At 11 p.m., tropical storm warnings or watches were extended up the Massachussetts and Maine coasts and into Canada, according to NOAA.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for the latest on Earl tonight on ABC.

As of this evening, the storm was nearly 400 miles wide, tracking northward at 18 mph. With its maximum sustained winds up to 105 miles per hour at around 11 p.m., Earl was not as strong as it was this morning, when 145 mph winds made it a powerful Category 4 storm.

To hear more about Hurricane Earl, click here.