Tropical Storm Watch In Effect; Officials Urge Beach Goers To Stay Out Of Water


NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Officials are urging caution as parts of the Tri-State are expected to get hit with rough surf, rain and high winds this weekend from Tropical Storm Hermine.

As CBS2’s Elise Finch reported, As CBS2’s Elise Finch reported, Hermine as of 11 p.m. had sustained winds of 59 mph and pressure of 997 mbar, and it was located 180 miles west-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was moving northeast at 22 mph.

The anticipated track of the storm has it moving offshore and back into the Atlantic Ocean by 2 p.m. Sunday, but then tracking back northeast by 2 p.m. Monday. By then, sustained wind speeds are expected to rise back to 75 mph, which would place Hermine at hurricane status again.

Worse, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting Hermine — which was downgraded from a hurricane on Friday — could nearly stall out at sea off the mid-Atlantic states Sunday through Wednesday morning.

Winds are expected to reach 20 to 40 mph for most of the area, and 40 to 60 mph along the Jersey Shore. Rainfall is expected to amount to 1.7 inches in New York City, 2.6 inches in Freehold, and 3.2 inches farther south on the Jersey Shore.

As a result, a tropical storm warning is in effect for Ocean and Monmouth counties. The storm will potentially track just 85 miles from the Jersey Shore.

A tropical storm watch has been issued for New York City, Long Island and southern Westchester County in New York, as well as parts of Essex, Union, Hudson and Middlesex counties in New Jersey as well as southern Fairfield and southern New Haven in Connecticut.

CHECK: Current Forecast & Alerts | Severe Weather Guide | PHOTOS: Hermine Slams Florida

Tropical storm force winds and storm surge will be an issue, and there are major concerns about coastal flooding.

National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said Hermine could become a post-tropical storm as it nears the Tri-State on Sunday, but pointed out Superstorm Sandy did the same in 2012 and still caused extensive damage.

The level of rain and flooding will depend on the path that Hermine takes. Forecasters say there is potential for more than 2 inches of rain and 4 to 6 inches in some coastal areas.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio called Hermine “very troubling” and urged New Yorkers to take the storm seriously.

Areas close to sea level could be vulnerable to storm surges. But the most dangerous effect of this storm will likely be the worst rip currents to hit the region in 10 to 15 years.

As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, fireworks lit up the sky over the Coney Island beach Friday night. But people weren’t expecting to enjoy the beach there later this weekend.

“I was hoping to go to the beach, but thanks to the storm, it may not be that easy,” said Max Friedland of Coney Island.

Miriam Lucente joined the crowds at Coney Island from her home in Florida.

“I didn’t know you had tropical storms here in New York,” said Lucente, of Fort Lauderdale. “I came to get away from it and here it is!”

Officials emphasized that Hermine is serious business.

“This storm could really be dangerous — particularly to people in coastal communities,” Mayor de Blasio said.

Mayor de Blasio wants all New Yorkers to be prepared for the worst, particularly in areas such as Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, Broad Channel and Howard Beach in Queens, and low-lying areas of Staten Island and the Bronx.

Officials have already ordered all New York City beaches to prohibit swimming starting Sunday due to powerful rip currents.

“What is different — and the National Weather Service really emphasized this earlier — is this phenomenon of the storm coming up the coast and then stalling — really for four days — and that is very unusual,” de Blasio said. “That’s why the rip current situation is going to be extremely dangerous.”

De Blasio warned beachgoers “to not even put your foot in the water” on Sunday because of dangerous rip currents due to Hermine.

“Some people are tempted during extreme weather to go and look. If you want to go look, that’s one thing. Do not go in the water,” he said. “It will be very dangerous — it will be unusually dangerous.”

He said the swimming ban will likely continue past Sunday.

“We will likely be closing the beaches for swimming on Monday and Tuesday as well, but we’ll make those announcements as we get closer and see how the storm develops,” he said.

The storm is not expected to do the kind of damage that Sandy did nearly four years ago. Still, some landmarks may close such as the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and certain bridges across the city may even close if the winds get too strong.

City officials also want residents to stay indoors when the storm hits, secure loose objects that could become projectiles, prepare for flooding with sandbags if needed, pack a “go bag” in case of evacuations, and lower temperatures on refrigerators and freezers in case of a power outage.

For now, various New York Labor Day festivals and parades are still on. And Sunday beachgoers can still stroll or sit on the sand, just not swim.

But the storm is still putting a damper on the end-of-summer holiday weekend plans.

The mayor wants everyone to stay informed about the impending storm and is encouraging New Yorkers to sign up for automatic alerts at Notify NYC or by calling 311.

On Long Island, there are concerns about flooding and employees at Jones Beach will be putting sand bags near buildings and securing items like trash cans and lifeguard equipment, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, all eyes were on the surf Friday afternoon and beachgoers were staying close to the lifeguards. While conditions were sunny on Friday, all the talk was about Hermine.

Suffolk County officials said they are ready should the worst of the storm hit hard when it arrives offshore Sunday morning. Suffolk County first responders showed off two surplus military Humvees they acquired, which they will rely on to rescue anyone trapped by rising floodwaters.

“We need to be able to get into those areas to help evacuate; to help assist people in need,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

State beaches such as Jones Beach and Robert Moses State Beach will be open on Saturday, but managers said Sunday is iffy. If there is serious flooding, Monday – Labor Day – could also be a washout.

Meanwhile, a major dune building project continues all along the South Shore beaches in hopes that it can stem any rising tides this weekend.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the states’ emergency operations center will also be activated on Sunday at noon as officials monitor the storm and gather resources, including sandbags, pumps and generators, among other equipment.

“The state will be taking all necessary precautions to support our local partners and keep our residents safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “While there is still uncertainty as to how far west the storm will track as it approaches New York State, we stand ready and prepared to respond with emergency equipment, supplies and personnel.”

There are also concerns about power outages.

Con Edison and PSEG Long Island said crews are preparing to respond to any outages that might occur due to the storm. PSEG Long Island said it is also installing barriers at a number of substations to keep water out.

Both utilities are also reminding people to avoid any downed trees and power lines. Downed wires should always be considered “live.” They say you shouldn’t approach or drive over a downed line and don’t touch anything that it might be in contact with.

In New Jersey, the National Weather Service says that minor to moderate coastal flooding is possible around high tides starting late Saturday.

One of the final nights of the summer season brought with it a sky that looked like cotton candy – in a fitting backdrop as people packed the Boardwalk in Asbury Park.

But with Hermine on the horizon, those clouds will be looking more ominous over the weekend, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported.

“We decided to get one last few hours of Labor Day in before the storm hit,” said William Garofalo of Ocean Township.

Some were looking for a bright side.

“Hopefully we’ll get some good waves out of it,” said Brian Sargeant of Shrewsbury.

But that is exactly what lifeguards are warning against. They do not want surfers or anyone else taking a chance in water where they’ve posted caution signs or red flags.

One group of friends emphasized that in any storm you’ve got to be smart — and you’ve got to be sensible.

“It’s all part of the tapestry of living in a shore town,” said Todd Carpenter of Asbury Park.

Preparations were already under way earlier Friday in Point Pleasant Beach, where the inlet side is prone to flooding.

A family from Sea Bright that was having some ice cream at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk on Friday had to make sure to get back to their own shore home and prepare it too.

“We have a beach house with space underneath it, so we’ll probably have to bring everything in and make sure everything’s secure and everyone is safe,” said Gwen Langslet of Sea Bright.

The staff was balancing their efforts between fun and danger, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported.

“Dual roles going — prepping for big weekend, keeping track of the storm,” said Jenkinson’s Boardwalk manager Toby Wolf.

“We started lowering our lakes — we have three lakes — so we started lowering the lakes so there’s no flooding. We have a 911 call going out to residents. Those who receive that will know that it’s time to move cars to higher ground,” said Point Pleasant Mayor Stephen Reid.

Lifeguards are keeping an extra close eye on swimmers as rip current warnings increase.

“It’s a little bit rough. As you know, the tropics are very active. We’re expecting this storm tomorrow night into Sunday. You really need to use caution going in the water today,” said Jenkinson’s beach front manager Mike Vuocolo.

Rip currents have been a concern all week and are expected to get worse.

“The waves are some calm, some big and they’re really rough,” said 12-year-old Nicholas Lieggi. “Really should be careful out there. Got pulled in a couple times.”

Neighboring Manasquan is also anticipating flooding.

“Right now, the projections are anywhere from 10 to 15 feet at the worst part of the storm. We just need to see when it affects the high tides,” said Manasquan Council President Owen McCarthy.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden said they don’t want anyone to panic, but they are planning for potentially high winds and coastal flooding, CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported.

“Shelter plans, heavy equipment operations plans, evacuation plans, all of that is being exercised in the background,” he said. “Again, not to alarm anybody, but that’s what we do in emergency management.”

He said one of the main concerns is informing visitors what to do if Hermine does get too close.

“Right now, it’s quiet, we have a beautiful day at the Jersey Shore,” he told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck. “The biggest thing for us is alerting our tourists to the fact that there may be some type of an event.”

The sheriff urged residents to have an emergency preparedness kit ready as a precaution and to bring in items later this weekend that could fly around in the wind.

Amtrak service in the area will also be affected through the weekend due to the threats from Hermine.

On Saturday and Sunday, Northeast Regional 66 will operate between Boston and Richmond, Virginia rather than Newport News, Virginia, and Northeast Regional 71 will operate from Penn Station to Richmond rather than Norfolk, Virginia. Northeast Regional 99 will run from Boston to Richmond.

Silver Star trains 91 and 92 from Penn Station to Miami are canceled. But Silver Meteor 97 and 98 will resume regular operations between Miami and Penn Station.

Two runs of the Palmetto line will run from Penn Station only to Washington, D.C. rather than Savannah, Georgia on Saturday.

On Sunday, two Northeast Regional runs will run from Richmond to Boston.

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