Hermine ruins beach weekend as it makes way up East Coast

Hermine picked up speed as it marched toward the East Coast, ruining the holiday weekend for some as it closed beaches as far north as New York.

Labor Day weekend plans that include a beach trip may have to change for residents living in coastal areas from Virginia to Connecticut.

Hermine’s winds picked up speed on its way north, and will leave behind a mess, forecasters say.

It will regain hurricane-force winds Sunday, though it is classified as a post-tropical cyclone.

“Wind and water hazards of a variety of kinds are things we have to contend with throughout Labor Day weekend,” National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb said Saturday. “Certainly a bad weekend to be on the beach and on boats.”

Greg and Margee Germaine were celebrating a wedding anniversary Saturday at Atlantic City, New Jersey, having cocktails on the beach and getting blasted by sand.

They said they were still enjoying their time at the shore.

“It may not be swimming weather, but it’s been beautiful,” Margee Germaine said despite the overcast skies and heavy surf.

The National Weather Service said the winds there Saturday afternoon were 25 mph, with gusts of 35 mph.

Elizabeth Brister, 23, saw her Labor Day weekend plans blow away in the wind.

“Right now, it’s looking like we’re not having much of any beach fun,” she said. “I was just pelted in the face with sand and I actually have sand in my contact right now. It kind of hurts.”

Masbahul Islam, a pedicab driver who has worked in Atlantic City for six years, said the Labor Day crowd is much smaller than in years past. The cancellation of two concerts due to the weather kept a lot of people away, Islam said.

A handful of people came out to the beach near the famous Steel Pier amusement park, mostly to look at the rough seas. The pier was closed Saturday.

Strengthening expected

The storm was expected to spend the next several days meandering in the Atlantic, gaining some strength.

Storm surge could be 3 to 5 feet above the ground during high tide in areas from northeastern Virginia to New Jersey through the weekend.

“At a minimum, we’re going to have some beach erosion, rip currents and dangerous waves all the way from the south facing shores of New England, Cape Cod, Nantucket … down to the Hampton Roads area,” Knabb said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Saturday for Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties.

“The impending weather conditions constitute an imminent hazard,” he said in a statement. “This situation may become too large in scope to be handled by the normal county and municipal operating services.”

The National Weather Service said some minor flooding could begin Saturday during high tide. But that will be just the beginning of the trouble.

“Widespread moderate to major flooding is now expected with the Sunday evening high tide and the Monday morning high tide, especially from Atlantic City south to coastal Delaware, when the storm is expected to make its closest approach to the area,” the weather service said, adding that significant beach erosion is forecast.

The good news is rainfall in New Jersey and Delaware is expected to be only between 1 and 3 inches.

Winds like a hurricane

Hermine could reach wind speeds of 75 mph as it strengthens Sunday, forecasters say.

“That strengthening could impact places from Nantucket, Cape Cod, New York City, even up and down the New Jersey coast,” said CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar.

“The combination of a storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 24 hours in the Hampton Roads area,” the Hurricane Center said Saturday evening.

“There is also the possibility of life-threatening inundation during the next 48 hours at many coastal locations between Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and Bridgeport, Connecticut,” the Saturday evening advisory reads.

Labor Day cancellations

Because of concerns about rough seas, dangerous surf and strong storm surge, no swimming will be allowed on New York beaches Sunday. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is considering closing them Monday and Tuesday, too.

“We’ll see how the storm develops. People can walk on the beach and be on the sand, just not in the water,” he said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for 12 counties along the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe warned Friday that people faced a strong possibility of “life-threatening” storm surges in coastal areas over the weekend.

Two deaths reported

When Hermine ripped into St. Marks in Florida’s Big Bend region just before 2 a.m. Friday, it became the first hurricane to come ashore in the state since Wilma struck 11 years ago.

One person died in Florida as Hermine approached. John Mayes, 56, was sleeping in a tent behind a gas station in Ocala, about 65 miles northwest of Orlando, when a tree fell onto him Thursday night, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

A medical examiner’s office has yet to determine whether the storm was the cause, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.

One person died Saturday when a tractor-trailer overturned while crossing a bridge in eastern North Carolina amid high winds from Hermine, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Public Safety, Michael Baker, said. The identity of the truck driver has not been released.

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