As of 9 a.m. EDT, Hurricane Earl has been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane and appears to be headed for a brush with the northeast North Carolina coastline.

Earl, with winds still in excess of 140 mph, could wreak havoc with soybeans and cotton, both of which are well ahead of typical harvest dates.

Farmers in the upper northeast of North Carolina are no strangers to hurricanes over the years, but storms have largely bypassed the area recently.

Crops from coastal areas around Washington, N.C., up to the Northern Neck of Virginia have been affected to varying degrees by record heat and localized intense drought. The overall impact has been to speed up crops, narrowing the harvest window and generally creating time problems for farmers.

Hurricane Earl will only accentuate those problems. Unusual August rains have helped alleviate some of the fears of yield loss in the area, but will contribute to problems created by heavy rainfall expected from the big storm.

Information as to what course Earl takes isn’t as precise as growers would like. "There is still concern that this track, the core of the storm, could shift a little farther to the west and have a very significant impact on the immediate coastline. Our present track keeps it off shore, but you never know," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.