Killer storm Hermine provides reprieve but still a threat

Parts of the East Coast drew a meteorological reprieve Sunday after the powerful Hermine storm system drifted farther east than forecast, diminishing the threat of further damage after walloping parts of the Southeast with high winds, heavy rains and storm surge.

Hermine, technically a "post-tropical cyclone," was already blamed for two deaths and remained a threat to regain hurricane force Monday, the National Weather Service said. As of 2 p.m. ET Sunday, Hermine featured 70 mph winds, just shy of hurricane strength, and was centered about 300 miles off of Ocean City, Md., and the eastern tip of Long Island.

Very little rain was falling, but some coastal areas were being buffeted by high winds that fed storm surge.

"There is a danger of life-threatening inundation within the next 36 hours from Cape Charles, Virginia, to Sandy Hook, N.J.," the weather service warned.

The system was expected to turn north and west later Sunday or Monday, which could threaten the New England coast.

"Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and some other places could get one to two inches of rain Monday and Tuesday, and there could be minor flooding," AccuWeather meteorologist Evan Duffey said.

Duffey said rain will be a "non-issue" until then, and winds also will be less than expected, although coastal areas of Delaware, New Jersey an New York could see gusts of up to 50 mph.

"It's like a winter storm, where 50 miles can be the difference between a major storm and a couple inches of snow," Duffey said. "This is a much better scenario for a lot of people."

Duffey warned, however, that while the sun was shining Sunday along some beaches, dangerous currents and riptides were prevalent. People should heed evacuation orders, and respect signs for closed beaches and rough surf, he said.

"People still need to be smart about how they treat this system," Duffey said. "And there is the threat of some flooding and other issues."

Late last week, Hermine rolled out of the Gulf of Mexico and across northern Florida as the first hurricane to hit the state in over a decade. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses lost power. A homeless was killed by a falling tree.

More than 65,000 utility customers remained without power across the state Sunday afternoon, the Florida  Division of Emergency Management said.

The trail of damage continued into Georgia and the Carolinas. In North Carolina, trucker was killed when his rig overturned Saturday because of high winds on a bridge.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Saturday in advance of the storm. On Sunday, he also warned residents that sunshine didn't mean the threat from Hermine was over. But he said he did not expect to order any evacuations.

Many residents were breathing a sigh of relief. Hilda DiBlasio was happy to see the sun to celebrate her birthday in Pitman, N.J.

"Mother Nature threatened to give me a hurricane but gave me a glorious day instead!" she said.


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