New York: Storm Hermine churned off the US Middle Atlantic Coast on Sunday, with forecasters projecting it may regain hurricane strength as it creeps north, spoiling the Labour Day holiday weekend with high winds, soaking rains and surging seas.
The storm, which claimed at least two lives, in Florida and North Carolina, is expected to stall off the coast of New Jersey and other major population centres in the Northeast for several days, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
Authorities up and down the coast have ordered swimmers, surfers and boaters to stay out of treacherous waters during the holiday weekend, when many Americans celebrate the end of summer.
Overnight, the centre of the storm moved farther east and away from the coast than previously forecast, said Rick Knabb, director of the hurricane centre, in a webcast.
"That's good news, but this is not over yet because we still are forecasting it to slow down and meander generally northward ... We think it could become hurricane force again," Knabb said, as the storm was likely to strengthen as it moved over warm water.
Projections show the outer reaches of the storm could sweep the coastlines of Rhode Island or Massachusetts later in the week. The centre forecast the heaviest rains to remain offshore, with Hermine expected to produce 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of rain through Monday from Long Island to eastern Massachusetts.
Accuweather.com forecast the strongest winds and heaviest rain would stay offshore much of Sunday, causing dangerous surf and coastal flooding. The storm's exact proximity to the coast would determine the severity of flooding and wind damage.
"Even a small shift in the track can have a big difference on impacts," AccuWeather said.
People posted pictures of flooding and high tides from North Carolina to New York, showing streets that were torn up or under water, vacation homes that were flooded, and tourists flocking away from beach holidays. Hermine was classified as a Category 1 hurricane until it lost strength while cutting across Florida and Georgia, packing sustained winds of up to 65 mph (105 kph).
Forecasters expected winds to return to hurricane force of more than 74 mph (119 kph) by Sunday evening.
The surge was expected to extend from Virginia to New Jersey. 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.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell declared a limited state of emergency for Sussex County, which includes the coastal resorts of Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach.
"The most dangerous aspect of this storm is going to be at the beaches. If you stay out of the oceans, avoid the heavy surf and the rip currents and don't go boating in these heavy seas, you're probably going to be all right," Knabb said.
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 80 mph (129 kph), knocking out power for 300,000 Florida homes and businesses. 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.