As of late Friday, Earl had weakened to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph on its way toward New England.
Vacationers had pulled their boats from the water and canceled Labor Day weekend reservations on Nantucket, the well-to-do resort island and old-time whaling port. Shopkeepers boarded up their windows. Swimmers in New England were warned to stay out of the water -- or off the beach altogether -- because of the danger of getting swept away by high waves.
Airlines canceled dozens of flights into New England, and Amtrak suspended train service between New York and Boston.
No large-scale evacuations were ordered for Cape Cod, where fishermen and other hardy year-round residents have been dealing with gusty nor'easters for generations.
Back in North Carolina, Governor Beverly Perdue briefed the media at 8 a.m. Friday and said there were no reports of major damage. Pictures from the area showed some power lines down and even an awning ripped off a gas station in Nags Head, but overall the damage was minimal. That was great news for beach towns hoping Earl would move on before the start of the holiday weekend.
"We dodged a bullet," said Perdue. "It was good practice and it shows our system works."
Perdue said the hurricane was the first real test of a new state radio system that allows officers with different law enforcement and emergency agencies to talk to each other.
Evacuation orders were rescinded for Carteret, Currituck, and Dare counties - allowing residents and vacationers to return.
Much of Hyde County remained without power. Dominion Virginia Power said there were about 2,500 homes in North Carolina without electricity.
State officials said ferries to southern beaches were open. The Cherry Branch and Pamlico ferries resumed operations Friday morning. However, ferries north of Atlantic Beach remained closed.
NC Highway 12 was closed south of the Oregon Inlet Bridge due to flooding and storm surge from the hurricane. DOT crews were working to remove sand to assess the damage to the roadway.
Drivers were urged to use extreme caution while driving in areas that have been impacted by the storm - including to be aware of debris on the ground and the possibility of downed power lines.
The state Department of Transportation announced Friday afternoon that N.C. Highway 12 connecting Hatteras Island to the rest of North Carolina will reopen Saturday at 7 a.m.
School systems were closed in Camden, Carteret, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, and Tyrrell counties. At the peak of the storm, as many as 397 evacuees sought refuge in 16 shelters.
The most likely place Earl will make landfall is on Saturday in western Nova Scotia, Canada, where it could still be a hurricane, said hurricane center deputy director Ed Rappaport.
Farther up the coast from North Carolina, governors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island declared states of emergency, joining Virginia and Maryland.
Back in North Carolina, forecasters say it’s looking like a great weekend ahead. ABC11 meteorologist Glen Willey says it will be in the 80s around the Triangle with temperatures in the 50s in the mornings.
“Almost Fall like,” said Willey.