Hurricane Earl expected to affect NJ coastline

LONGPORT BEACH - September 2, 2010 RELATED: Click here for the Hurricane Tracker

After enduring record-setting heat this summer, New Jersey residents along the coast have a different motivation to stay indoors this holiday weekend.

High winds and rain from Hurricane Earl were expected to buffet the coastline Friday, and even though the worst of the storm is expected to be centered more than 100 miles offshore, plans were being made Thursday to prevent damage to people and property.

"We're telling everybody to secure any and all objects that can become wind-blown and turn into missiles," said Allyn Seel, deputy director of the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management. "We're also looking at possibly some loss of power, so we're telling people to buy things like extra batteries, flashlights and water."

At least for Friday, when the brunt of the storm was expected to pass along New Jersey's coast, beachgoers were being urged to stay out of the water and avoid potentially dangerous rip currents.

Seel said beaches in Atlantic City and nearby Brigantine would be closed to swimmers, and state officials said Thursday that swimmers and surfers would be prohibited from going into the water at Island Beach State Park.

Nelson Ramos of Queens, N.Y., was on the beach in Atlantic City on Thursday and said beach personnel on ATVs were telling people to stay out of the water.

"It's higher than we've ever seen it, everyone was by the water and all of a sudden it came up farther than normal; everyone was pulling their chairs back," Ramos said. "No one is in the water, the few who were in up to their waist, the waves are knocking them down."

The storm was expected to cool temperatures in the northeastern U.S., a welcome relief for a region that has seen all-time records for hot weather surpassed this spring and summer.

The National Weather Service maintained a tropical storm warning for New Jersey's coast for Friday. The storm was packing sustained winds of about 125 mph with some gusts even higher, prompting a hurricane warning for the southern Massachusetts coast.

Hurricane conditions weren't expected in New Jersey, but the storm was expected to cause rough surf, dangerous rip currents and coastal flooding.

At the beach in Longport the red flag was up, which means swimming is restricted to your waist or knees because of rip current concerns.

"The waves have increased tenfold in terms of the size," said Chief Dan Adams of the Longport Beach Patrol. "It's just totally churned up right now, it's like a washing machine."

Lifeguards were removing boats and other gear in preparation for Earl.

One beachgoer who has been down at the shore all week says the sea was noticeably rougher on Thursday.

"It's pretty rough out there today. I've been coming to the beach for the last four days. It was starting to build up yesterday and today it's pretty intense," said Dan Bruning of Somers Point, N.J.

Amtrak officials were monitoring the storm Thursday and didn't expect to make any service alterations on its trains from New Jersey to points north until Friday morning, spokesman Cliff Cole said. Earlier Thursday, Amtrak canceled trains to Newport News, near Virginia's coast, from Richmond and Washington until Saturday.

Ferries between Cape May and Lewes, Del., were canceled for Friday, according to Delaware River and Bay Authority officials.

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