WASHINGTON AND NEW YORK - A powerful Atlantic storm strengthened on Saturday after passing over North Carolina's Outer Banks en route to the U.S. Middle Atlantic coast, where it was expected to spoil the Labor Day holiday weekend with high winds, soaking rains and surging seas.
The storm, dubbed Hermine and classified as a Category 1 hurricane until it lost power while cutting across Florida and Georgia, was expected to push slowly up the coast before stalling off New Jersey, where it could linger for days.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said they expected Hermine to turn to the northeast and slow in speed on Saturday night, with winds again reaching hurricane force of more than 120 kph by Sunday evening.
"It's going to sit offshore and it is going to be a tremendous coastal event with a dangerous storm surge and lots of larger waves probably causing significant beach erosion, for the next few days," said Daniel Brown, senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in three coastal counties of the state, which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
The town of Beach Haven issued an emergency advising anyone who planned to leave Long Beach Island, a barrier island that draws summer crowds, to do so before Sunday night's high tide.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell declared a limited state of emergency for Sussex County, which includes the coastal resorts of Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach.
Hermine, the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida in 11 years, swept ashore on Friday near the town of St. Marks with winds of 130 kph.
It left North Carolina with power outages, flooding, downed trees and power lines, while rain and tides brought flooding along Virginia's coast.
In the northern Florida town of Ocala, a falling tree killed a homeless man sleeping in his tent. In North Carolina, a tractor trailer overturned on a bridge over the Alligator River, killing the driver.
Overnight, four people suffered minor injuries when a tornado hit a campground in Hatteras Village, Dare County, North Carolina, officials said.
People posted pictures of flooding and high tides from North Carolina to Delaware. "Almost getting blown away from this storm on the boardwalk in Ocean City was so worth it for Dunkin Donuts," Twitter user Jessica wrote from a Maryland resort town.
In Virginia Beach, Seth Broudy, 45, owner of the Seth Broudy School of Surf, said high winds and tides flooded parking lots by his home on Saturday morning. The water and wind receded, but the ocean remained unsafe on Saturday afternoon, he said.
"Right now it's rough as hell. It's dangerous," Broudy said in a telephone interview. "It's just out of control. It's like sitting in a washing machine and spinning around."
Life-threatening storm surges are possible Saturday night and Sunday morning around Hampton Roads, Virginia, the hurricane center said. A surge is a rise of water above a predicted tide, pushed by high winds, and is often the greatest threat to life from a storm, according to national weather officials.