The rip currents that have made local beaches dangerous the past several days are likely to rip again later this week when Hurricane Earl passes off the coast.

That means swimmers need to be careful.

Otherwise, most residents aren't likely to notice when Earl passes. Forecasters expect the storm to stay well offshore, about midway between the coast and Bermuda.

The Lowcountry is expected to see sunny skies with no rain. High surf and rip currents will be similar to the effects of Hurricane Danielle, said meteorologist Ryan Aylward with National Weather Service, Charleston.

Forecasters said there is a chance the hurricane could brush the U.S. mid-Atlantic region toward the end of the week, with its closest approach to North Carolina on Thursday.

The National Hurricane Center forecast on Sunday evening had the western edge of its potential tracks grazing the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Earl strengthened late Sunday to a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds and inched closer to land. At 8 p.m., Earl was 185 miles east of St. Martin.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for the British Virgin Islands, including Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were under a hurricane watch.

The hurricane center said Sunday evening that hurricane-force winds could strike the Leeward Islands in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Forecasters said Earl could strengthen into a major hurricane as soon as today -- probably while east of Puerto Rico. Major hurricanes are those with winds of more than 110 mph.

In Puerto Rico on Sunday, islanders set up emergency shelters and canceled flights. Cruise lines diverted ships to avoid the storm's path.

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.

As Earl approaches the U.S. Caribbean territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it stands ready to help.

"We continue to monitor the storm and stay in close contact with commonwealth and territorial emergency management officials in the region to ensure they have the resources to respond if needed," FEMA administrator Craig Fugate said.