PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Hermine twisted hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, creating large waves in some southern New England beach waters that lured in surfers despite the rough surf and rip currents that kept most beachgoers away on the last day of the holiday weekend.
"These are more seasoned surfers who live for the thrill of these waves," said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.
Hermine's position Monday southeast of Nantucket created 20-foot waves and wind gusts of up to 50 mph about 55 miles southeast of the island, Buttrick said. Hermine was expected to stall over the water before weakening again.
Even as Hermine weakens, wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph were expected across southern Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts on Monday, Buttrick said.
Governors along the Eastern Seaboard announced emergency preparations. A tropical storm warning was in effect from New York's Long Island to Massachusetts. New York officials extended beach closures beyond Labor Day because of continued deadly rip currents.
The New York Post said police issued $80 tickets to at least four surfers at the Rockaway Beach surf spot. An emergency worker who dived into the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island to save a swimmer who violated the ban told the Post that the current felt like a "300-pound guy pulling me back out to sea."
Whipping winds didn't keep some beach seekers from walking along the New Jersey shore, but Labor Day vacationers quickly took to boardwalks as an aggressive high tide moved into the area.
The waves eroded some of the shore, creating sand dune cliffs where kids climbed. Warnings of potentially dangerous riptides temporarily cleared the water Monday, but a couple of dozen beachgoers and a handful of surfers returned to the water in Atlantic City by the afternoon. A rougher surf cleared portions of the beachfront.
Hermine rose over the Gulf of Mexico and hit Florida on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm across Georgia. It has caused at least three deaths, inflicted widespread property damage and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people from Florida to Virginia.
Since sea levels have risen to a foot because of global warming, the storm surges pushed by Hermine could be even more damaging, climate scientists say.
"We are already experiencing more and more flooding due to climate change in every storm," said Michael Oppenheimer, a geosciences professor at Princeton University. "And it's only the beginning."
Michael Mann, at Pennsylvania State University, said the 1-foot rise that New York City has experienced over the past century caused an additional 25 square miles and several billions of dollars of damage with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
No flooding or other damage had been reported as of Monday afternoon in some of the worst Sandy-hit areas, including Point Pleasant Beach, Bay Head, Mantoloking and Brick.
On Saturday, high winds tipped over an 18-wheeler, killing its driver and shutting down a bridge in North Carolina's Outer Banks. In Florida, a homeless man in Marion County was hit by a falling tree and was killed. And a man trying to remove a tree that fell on a highway near Cottageville, S.C., on Friday was struck by a car and died on Saturday.