(This story has been updated.)
Tropical Storm Hermine has the potential to inflict serious damage and “life-threatening” hazards to the Mid-Atlantic coast this Labor Day holiday weekend. Significant beach erosion, dangerous surf, damaging winds, torrential rain and major coastal flooding are all possible.
On the last big beach weekend of the summer, the entire Mid-Atlantic coastline is under a tropical storm warning. This could turn into a coastal storm event of historic significance for shoreline areas as it may stall and batter the beaches with high water and battering waves for several tide cycles.
Ahead of the storm, Maryland governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for Southern Maryland and Maryland’s eastern shore.
The National Hurricane Center also issued a storm surge watch from the Delmarva to New York City, as the storm could push ashore a rise in water of two to four feet.
“A storm surge watch is defined as the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours,” according to the National Weather Service.
In the Hampton Roads, the storm surge watch was upgraded to a storm surge warning, given the imminent threat of a three- to five-foot rise in water at high tide.
— NHC Atlantic Ops (@NHC_Atlantic) September 2, 2016
Bryan Norcross, hurricane specialist at the The Weather Channel, warned that Hermine could morph into a “freak-show storm.”
“The meteorology is simple enough,” Norcross wrote. “Over the Carolinas, Hermine will begin to get some of its energy from the jet stream, which has dipped down to yank it up the east coast. When it heads back over the ocean, it will be energized by both the warm water and the jet-stream winds. That means a strengthening storm will head north.”
He continued: “Then the freak show starts. That jet stream dip abandons the storm as it sits off the Delmarva or New Jersey coast over ocean water that is dramatically warmer then normal. So this huge orphan circulation sits and spins and pushes ocean water into the bays, sounds, and rivers in the Mid-Atlantic. And it does not let it out.”
Officials in Sussex County, Del., (where Bethany and Rehoboth beaches are) and Ocean City, Md., said they were busily preparing for the storm but stopped short of discouraging people from coming. “We’re not quite there yet,” said Jessica Waters, communications director for Ocean City. “Our two biggest messages are be prepared and stay informed.”
Ocean City has banned swimmed at its beaches, WTOP reported.
While the storm track could shift and present a less extreme scenario, we would not recommend traveling to Virginia, Maryland, Delaware or New Jersey beaches for the holiday weekend.
If you do go to the beach or choose to stay there, be prepared for the possibility of road closures, flooding of vulnerable oceanfront properties and other low-lying areas, and power outages. Carry with you sufficient food, medical supplies and an emergency kit, make sure your electronic devices remain charged and bring along books, games and DVDs to pass the time inside. And recognize that you may be asked to evacuate.
If you have beachfront property, secure or bring inside items that could be blown by the wind, move electronics off the floor and secure any water vessels.
The farther away you go from the Atlantic coastline, the less inclement the weather will become. Although changes in the storm track are possible, the Interstate 95 corridor will probably set up near the western edge of the storm’s reach, and areas farther west — especially toward Interstate 81 — may see little if any rain.
Forecast for the Mid-Atlantic beaches
Maryland, Delaware and southern New Jersey beaches
A tropical storm warning is in effect. Conditions are likely to deteriorate early Saturday into Saturday night from south to north. It is possible the storm slows down, which would delay the worst effects at the Jersey Shore until Sunday.
Strong winds and heavy rain are likely through Sunday and even into Monday, although their intensity may increase and decrease as the storm meanders off the coast, drifting back and forth.
Depending on the exact track of the storm, two to six inches of rain are possible, with locally higher amounts not out of the question.
Sustained winds of 30 to 45 mph are possible with gusts to 50 to 60 mph.
The beaches face the prospect of taking a relentless beating for several days as the storm lingers not far off the coast. Some models even suggest the storm could become a hurricane again Sunday into Monday, reorganizing over ocean waters that are abnormally warm.
The Tropical Storm Hermine local statement from the National Weather Service warns minor to moderate coastal flooding is possible during high tides “from late Saturday onward.”
The worst coastal flooding would probably occur Saturday night into Sunday when recent tide-gauge forecasts suggest the possibility of historic (ranking in the top five storm events) rises in water along the northern Delmarva and New Jersey coasts.
Updated surge+tide graphics for Lewes & Cape May suggest top 3 tidal flooding event Sunday night. Rivals Jan blizz pic.twitter.com/R5jZIK0A79
— PhillyWx.com (@phillywx) September 2, 2016
Here's Cape May: Major to record flooding forecast Sunday night. Record here is 9.0 feet from January Nor'easter. pic.twitter.com/veK13glksb
— Dan Skeldon (@ACPressSkeldon) September 2, 2016
“There is particular concern for tidal flooding in the back bays due to the prolonged nature of the event with Hermine stalling off the Delmarva and NJ coast for several days,” the National Weather Service said.
Huge waves, dangerous rip currents and beach erosion will be unavoidable.
It is important to note that, in this region, Hermine’s exact track will make the difference between coastal storm effects that are merely a nuisance and those that are disruptive, very costly and life-threatening.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Virginia Beach
A tropical storm warning is in effect.
Rain and wind will become most intense tonight in North Carolina and early Saturday morning in Virginia. Rain will taper off midday Saturday, but it will remain windy through Sunday morning.
Rainfall totals are expected to range from four to eight inches, with isolated higher amounts possible in North Carolina. Flooding of low-lying areas is likely.
Sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts to 50 to 60 mph are possible, which could lead to scattered power outages. Isolated tornadoes, with even higher winds, are possible embedded within the storm’s spiral bands.
A storm surge of one to three feet above ground level is possible tonight into early Saturday in North Carolina and up to three to five feet in the Hampton Roads area, which is under a storm surge warning.
This will cause minor to moderate flooding in some locations. For more specifics, consult the National Weather Service’s Tropical Storm Hermine local statement for the Outer Banks and Virginia.
High surf is likely to cause beach erosion and dangerous rip currents.