Hermine threatened to regain hurricane strength Sunday, leaving beaches closed and storm warnings in effect from parts of the mid-Atlantic coast to Massachusetts.
Downgraded to a posttropical cyclone, Hermine was over the Atlantic Ocean, spinning about 335 miles to the east of Ocean City, Md., as of 5 p.m. EDT Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
The storm has left a trail of wreckage, killing two people, damaging properties and leaving thousands without power along the East Coast.
States across the Northeast buckled down as tropical storm warnings were issued for the coastal areas of Rhode Island as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Mass.
While forecasters expect the heaviest rainfall to remain out at sea, they warn of storm surges with large, dangerous waves, and winds of up to 50 mph from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to Montauk Point and the North Shore of Long Island in N.Y.
“These waves are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, and significant beach erosion,” a National Weather Service advisory said.
“If the Labor Day celebrations are on the beach, yeah that’s going to be a problem, mainly because of the wind and the surf,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. He warned of a life-threatening storm surge on Long Island.
In New Jersey, moderate flooding was expected to be at its worst around 11 a.m. Monday during high tide along the coast from Sandy Hook to Cape May, according to the National Weather Service.
“That’s probably the closest approach that the storm is going to make so it’s going to provide the greatest amount of water to the coast,” said Joe Miketta, a meteorologist at the Mount Holly, N.J., branch of the National Weather Service.
‘There’s a whole bunch of things going on in the atmosphere that may not favor intensification of the storm, but then you have the warmer water that does. So it’s, which one is going to win out?’
Suzanne Walters, the mayor of Stone Harbor, a borough in Cape May County, said she expected flooding to be most problematic for residents on Monday morning.
“I wish there was some kind of a wall we could put up all of a sudden that would protect our bayside,” Ms. Walters said. “But unfortunately there’s not, so that’s where we’re expecting most of the flooding to occur.”
The storm still had the potential to turn into a hurricane, Mr. Miketta said. Warm ocean temperatures were increasing the storm’s power on Sunday, but wind shearing in the atmosphere was also limiting Hermine’s strength, he said.
“There’s a whole bunch of things going on in the atmosphere that may not favor intensification of the storm, but then you have the warmer water that does,” Mr. Miketta said. “So it’s, ‘Which one is going to win out?’”
New Jersey’s coast would likely avoid strong winds, according to the National Weather Service, something Gov. Chris Christie expressed concern about on Sunday morning.
Mr. Christie, speaking in Morristown, said electrical companies were deploying extra crews over the weekend in anticipation of power outages.
“They are getting in a wait-and-watch mode on power,” said Mr. Christie, who on Saturday declared a state of emergency in three counties.
Mr. Christie said an inch or less of rainfall was expected for coastal counties. He said the storm “was not even close” to the level of superstorm Sandy, but residents should remain on guard.
Mr. Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center said the storm appeared to be headed east over the Atlantic Ocean.
“The good news is that it looks like all of the rainfall is going to stay offshore, though it could clip the southeastern part of Massachusetts,” Mr. Feltgen said. “We don’t have a landfall again on this. It’s just sitting over the water.”
In Florida, where Hermine first made landfall early Friday, the storm caused power outages for more than 215,000 people in 31 out of 35 counties where Duke Energy provides power, according to the utility company. As of early Sunday evening, about 9,400 of the company’s Florida customers were still without power, it said.
Another 29,000 homes and businesses remained without power in battered Tallahassee, Fla., the city said. Florida Gov. Rick Scottordered a survey of downed power lines in Tallahassee and Leon County, where they would be clearly marked “so the public knows to stay away,” he said.
Parts of Delaware have already seen the worst of Hermine. Tropical storm warnings were lifted in Delaware Bay, north of Slaughter Beach, and Fenwick Island. Authorities reopened the Fenwick Island’s beach but banned all water activity due to dangerous surf and rip currents, Fenwick Island Beach Patrol said on social media.
In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory toured cotton, soybean and corn farms in the state’s Washington and Tyrrell counties, which received 5 to 10 inches of rain during the storm. “While the majority of the state did not see major damage, many of our farmers and a number of North Carolina’s coastal communities have been impacted by Hermine,” Gov. McCrory said Sunday. Farmers are hopeful floodwaters will recede quickly, he said.
New Jersey residents still packed beaches on Sunday even though most municipalities had prohibited swimming.
Wally Wall, the Manasquan beach department manager, said about 1,000 people enjoyed a day during which temperatures hit the high 70s.
“We’ve had a beautiful sunny day here,” Mr. Wall said.
Ms. Walters said the storm didn’t stop many of the tourists who had rented houses in Stone Harbor for Labor Day weekend. But she remained cautious as the storm moved over the Atlantic Ocean.
“If people were only here for the weekend, go home,” Ms. Walters said. “That’s your best bet.”