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Danger lurks as surfers flock to Florida's East Coast in search of monster waves

Florida will be largely spared of the effects of Hurricane Earl, but the storm still will bring plenty of danger.

Hordes of surfers are heading to the East Coast for what promises to be some of the most dramatic surf in many years.

But that also means dangerous rip currents and monster waves.

Only last weekend a surfer died off Satellite Beach in waters roiled by Hurricane Danielle.

Because it will be closer to Florida, Hurricane Earl promises even rougher surf.

"All available staff with be on duty,'' said Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron. In Volusia, that means a total of about 75 lifeguards, police officers and EMTs, all of whom help staff the 70 lifeguard towers covering more than 40 miles of beachfront, Byron said.

Not since Hurricane Bob in 1991 has such a powerful storm had such a large swath of the East Coast in its sights, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.

"We're expecting very heavy surf. We've had it all week,'' Byron said.

The Tampa Bay area likely will see only breezy conditions - perhaps 15-20 mph - and little else unless Earl's track moves further to the west, said Juli Marquez, meteorologist with Bay News 9.

Meanwhile, beach communities up and down the East Coast are preparing.

In the Outer Banks along the North Carolina coast, tourists at a popular North Carolina island were preparing to board ferries and head for the mainland early Wednesday. More evacuations could be on the way.

More evacuations along the Eastern Seaboard could follow, depending on the path taken by the storm, which weakened to a Category 3 hurricane early Wednesday as it whipped across the Caribbean with winds of 125 mph.

Earl was expected to remain over the open ocean before turning north and running parallel to the East Coast, bringing high winds and heavy rain to North Carolina's Outer Banks by late Thursday or early Friday.

From there, forecasters said, it could curve away from the coast somewhat as it makes its way north, perhaps hitting Massachusetts' Cape Cod and the Maine shoreline Friday night and Saturday.

Forecasters cautioned that it was still too early to tell how close Earl might come to land.

As Hurricane Early churned away, forecasters were keeping close watch over two other tropical systems.

Tropical Storm Fiona was packing 45 mph winds and following a track similar to that of Earl.

And Tropical Depression Nine formed Wednesday in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean. If it becomes a storm, it would be named Gaston.

It was moving in a west-northwest direction at about 15 mph with sustained winds of 35 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It should continue moving forward at an even slower speed over the next two days.

Hurricane Earl: Latest position and forecast path

Weather Underground Inc. | Interactive map

Danger lurks as surfers flock to Florida's East Coast in search of monster waves 09/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:23am]
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