(This story has been updated.)
On Wednesday, forecasters feared that what is now Hurricane Hermine would hug the East Coast and ruin part of the Labor Day weekend for D.C. and Baltimore. The forecast has changed and, while it could change again, the holiday weekend may not be horrible.
It now appears likely that the Hermine will track far enough off the East Coast to spare the Interstate 95 corridor the storm’s worst. A graze is most likely – meaning showery weather is more likely than a driving, wind-swept rain. The storm could even totally miss the area.
But coastal areas from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Jersey Shore may well get slammed. Heavy rain, strong winds and dangerous surf are likely, with forecast confidence high for the Carolina Outer Banks but just moderate for the Delmarva beaches. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Outer Banks and a tropical storm watch for the Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey beaches.
It’s important to recognize that the track of Hermine is still in flux and changes could still have meaningful implications for the entire region. Everyone should continue to monitor forecasts and have a Plan B, whether it’s for outdoor activities in the D.C.-Baltimore area or plans to head to the Atlantic beaches.
Based on the latest information, the most likely storm track and the one favored by the National Hurricane Center takes Hermine right up the Southeast coast, paralleling the shore, after it crosses over northern Florida and southeast Georgia.
It would reach the N.C. Outer Banks by 7 a.m. Saturday before exiting Mid-Atlantic coastal areas Saturday into Sunday. However, it is likely to remain close enough to the Delmarva and Northeast shoreline that storm impacts could linger at the beaches into Labor Day.
What to expect in the Washington and Baltimore regions
The Interstate 95 corridor, including D.C. and Baltimore, are no longer in the National Hurricane Center’s “cone of uncertainty” for Hermine, which means the likelihood of experiencing tropical storm conditions are small.
Many models now simulate little rainfall for the region, but we can’t necessarily bank on dry conditions. The storm center may come close enough such that showers sweep through the area Saturday, especially east of Interstate 95 toward the Chesapeake Bay. Even some heavier rain could develop in these eastern areas, including places like Annapolis and especially over the Delmarva.
Generally, the chance of rain Saturday is 50-50 near Interstate 95, 60 percent east of the 95 (70 percent over the Delmarva), and decreasing to 20 percent or less into the mountains.
As the storm may stall off the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coast Sunday, some intermittent showers could linger or pivot back into the region. Rain chances are generally about 10-20 percent less on Sunday compared to Saturday, but cannot be ruled out.
By Labor Day, we may finally be able to sound the all-clear.
Breezy conditions are possible throughout the weekend (10-20 mph, with some higher gusts), but — based on the current track — significant winds are not expected.
Any westward shift in the track would increase the intensity and duration of wind and rain around Washington and Baltimore, and expand areas affected toward the Interstate 81 corridor (Roanoke to Hagerstown).
A eastward shift in track would mean no rain in the immediate D.C. area — just partly sunny skies and pleasant breezes.
What to expect at the Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey beaches
These areas could get hit hard by the storm, but it’s not etched in stone, as some model simulations suggest more of a glancing blow than a direct impact. In other words, you don’t need to cancel Labor Day beach plans yet, although it may ultimately be prudent.
Most likely, rain and wind are likely to develop during the day Saturday. Rain could be heavy at times with tropical-storm-force winds of 40-60 mph by the afternoon or evening if the storm tracks close by.
If the storm stalls, as some models suggest, these conditions could continue through Sunday and even linger into early Monday — although conditions should improve Labor Day.
Rainfall could easily exceed three inches or more.
The beaches are likely to take a beating, with heavy surf (breakers of 6 to 8 feet), dangerous rip currents, and possible coastal flooding at high tide. Significant beach erosion is possible.
But a shift east in Hermine’s track would mean significantly less rain and wind, and reduce the risk of coastal flooding.
Heavy surf and rip currents are likely irrespective of the storm’s exact track. In other words, swimming will be risky at the beaches this weekend no matter what the storm does.
What to expect from the North Carolina Outer Banks to Virginia Beach
The North Carolina Outer Banks are under a tropical storm warning and it seems unlikely that it will be able to avoid some disruptive impacts from Hermine. Same holds true — to a lesser degree — for southeastern Virginia.
Conditions are likely to deteriorate during the day Friday with rain and wind increasing from south to north.
The worst conditions would affect the Outer Banks from late Friday afternoon through very early Saturday morning, and Virginia Beach Friday night through mid-morning Saturday.
Five to 10 inches of rain are possible over the Outer Banks and closer to five inches in Southeast Virginia (more rain is possible if the storm tracks a bit west).
Tropical-storm-force winds of 40-60 mph are reasonably likely, with even some higher gusts not out of the question over the Outer Banks.
Thunderstorms embedded within Hermine’s spiral bands could spawn some tornadoes in this region.
Like the Delmarva and New Jersey beaches, heavy surf and dangerous rip currents are likely, and coastal flooding is possible, especially around high tide Friday night into Saturday. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Delaware and New Jersey coasts.
By midday Saturday, conditions should start improving over this area as rain diminishes, but very strong winds could linger into early Sunday.