Tropical Storm Hermine regained strength Saturday as it moved slowly up the Eastern Seaboard and made a mess of the holiday weekend.
Hermine already caused two deaths, damaged properties and left hundreds of thousands without electricity from Florida to Virginia. It also spawned a tornado in North Carolina.
“This is not a beach weekend for anyone in the Mid-Atlantic to the northeast,” said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Hermine rose up over the Gulf of Mexico and hit Florida on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane before weakening across Georgia.
By 2 pm Saturday, Hermine’s top sustained winds had increased again to 70 mph (110 kph) as it moved east at 10 mph (17 kph). The storm was centered 90 miles east of Duck, North Carolina.
Governors all along the coast announced emergency preparations as tropical storm warnings went into effect as far north as Connecticut.
And since sea levels have risen up to a foot due to global warming, the dangerous storm surges predicted to hit the coast from Virginia to New Jersey could be even more damaging, climate scientists say.
Michael Mann at Pennsylvania State University noted that the one-foot sea-level rise measured in New York City meant 25 more square miles flooded during Superstorm Sandy, causing billions more in damage.
“We are already experiencing more and more flooding due to climate change in every storm,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a geosciences professor at Princeton University. “And it’s only the beginning.”
The winds and rain were so strong Saturday in North Carolina that all bridges to the Outer Banks were closed following a deadly accident over the intracoastal waterway.
Tyrrell County Sheriff Darryl Liverman told the Virginian-Pilot that high winds tipped over an 18-wheeler, killing its driver and shutting down the US 64 bridge.
And on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks, a small tornado spawned by Hermine knocked over two trailers and injured four people, authorities said.
In Florida, a homeless man died from a falling tree.
Forecasters said the system could strengthen back into a hurricane Monday through Wednesday as it moves on an offshore path from the waters of Maryland to Connecticut, before weakening again off New England.
The timing couldn’t be worse for communities along the coast hoping for revenue from Labor Day events.
In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where the beach was closed to foot traffic and swimming prohibited Saturday, traffic was lighter than normal, said Jim Derrick, whose family businesses include a mini golf course, sea shell store, indoor bounce house and ice cream shop.
“This weekend would normally be a parking lot,” The said in a telephone interview. He called the weekend “definitely disappointing,” although his bounce house was packed.
Elsewhere along Hermine’s path, people were having decidedly less fun.
In Savannah, Georgia, Bacon Fest was canceled Friday and Saturday’s Craft Brew Fest was moved indoors.
In Virginia Beach, the storm forced Bruce Springsteen to move a Saturday night concert to Monday. Swimmers were ordered out of the surf in New York and New Jersey. And Amtrak cancelled or altered some service as the storm approached.
Joyce Harper and her husband, of Berkely Township, NJ, canceled Monday’s family barbecue and took their three young daughters to the Seaside Heights boardwalk to “Turn off some energy”ahead of the storm.
“If it’s as bad as they expect, then we’re all going to be indoors for a couple days. I love my kids, but two days is a long time to be together in close spaces,”she said.