Slow-moving Tropical Storm Hermine returned to near hurricane strength Saturday off the Atlantic coast bringing threats of deadly storm surge flooding during the Labor Day weekend from North Carolina to Connecticut.
At 8 p.m. ET Saturday, the National Hurricane Center reported that Hermine’s top sustained winds were at 70 mph, just shy of hurricane strength winds of 74 mph, as it moved east-northeast at 12 mph. The storm was centered about 195 miles southeast of Ocean City, Md..
The NHC said it expected Hermine to regain hurricane force on Sunday, and the center of the storm would "meander" offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula on Sunday night and early Monday, raising the specter of "life-threatening inundation" from storm surges and tides until Sunday night from Chincoteague, Va., to Sandy Hook, N.J.
As the storm moved northward, only cars, pickups, minivans and sport-utility vehicles without exterior cargo were allowed to cross the 17.6-mile span linking the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula to mainland Virginia.
"Large waves generated by Hermine will affect the U.S. East Coast from the Mid-Atlantic states and expand northward along the coast of southern New England through the weekend," the NHC said. "These waves are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, and significant beach erosion."
On Friday, before hitting the Atlantic, Hermine rolled out of the Gulf of Mexico and across northern Florida as the first hurricane to hit the state in over a decade.
By Monday, Bridgeport, Conn., could face up to 4 feet of water if the peak surge hits at high tide. The center also extended its Tropical Storm Warning to the west of Watch Hill, R.I., including Long Island, Long Island Sound, and New York City.
In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency for three coastal counties in preparation for Hermine's arrival.
“Anyone along the U.S. East Coast needs to be paying close attention this weekend,” said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
Amtrak says it has canceled or altered some service on the East Coast as the storm approached.
At least two deaths had been linked to Hermine. In Florida, a homeless man was struck and killed by a falling tree south of Gainesville, according to Gov. Rick Scott.
In North Carolina, a man died after a tractor-trailer overturned Saturday because of high winds on the 3-mile-long Lindsay C. Warren Bridge east of Columbia, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
And The Associated Press reported that on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks, a small tornado spawned by Hermine knocked over two trailers and injured four people.
An estimated 325,000 people were without power statewide, many in the Tallahassee area, and more than 107,000 in neighboring Georgia, officials said.
Contributing: Deborah Gates from The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times