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Hermine spun away from the East Coast, removing the threat of heavy rain but maintaining enough power to whip up dangerous waves and rip currents and keep beaches off-limits to disappointed swimmers and surfers during the Labour Day weekend.
As it churned hundreds of miles off shore in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, the system picked up strength, and forecasters said it could regain hurricane force later as it travels up the coast. It was expected to stall over the water before weakening again to a tropical storm by Tuesday.
“It’s just going to meander for a few days,” said Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center, explaining that Hermine was unlikely to make landfall again but was positioned to batter the coast with wind and waves. Governors all along the Eastern Seaboard announced emergency preparations.
Tropical storm watches and warnings were in effect from Virginia to Massachusetts, with special concern focused on New Jersey and Delaware, where Rehoboth Beach could experience gusts up to 50 mph and life-threatening storm surges during high tide late Sunday and Monday.
On the Virginia Beach boardwalk, the Atlantic Ocean roared with uncharacteristically large waves, drawing only a couple of surfers into the choppy white water. But hundreds, if not thousands of people, had descended onto the beach for the traditional last weekend of summer. Umbrellas and canopies dotted the sand under partly sunny skies.
Hermine failed to stop Barb and Don Willis of Buffalo, New York, from enjoying the trip they booked months ago. They even braved the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on Saturday as the wind whipped their car and the bay rose close to the bridge’s bottom. “That was so scary,” Barb Willis said. “Oh my God. My hands were white knuckles, and the water was so high. It was horrible,” she said.
The couple, both in their 60s, said they knew the storm would blow over, even as friends texted their concerns. Tropical storm-force winds were possible on Monday in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie warned that minor to moderate flooding was still likely in coastal areas and said the storm will cause major problems, even as it tracks away from land. “Don’t be lulled by the nice weather,” Christie said, referring to the bright sunny skies along the Jersey Shore on Sunday. “Don’t think that nothing is going to happen, because something is going to happen.”
New York City planned to close its beaches on Monday because of rip currents, and the ban could extend into Tuesday, depending on weather conditions, officials said. Long Island authorities urged people to evacuate the summer getaway known as Fire Island to avoid any storm surge and coastal flooding. Emergency officials warned that anyone who stays will not be able to leave after ferries shut down last evening.