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Posted at 5:39 PM ET, 09/ 2/2010

Waiting on Earl, worrying about weekend

By Erica Johnston

OCEAN CITY, Md. -- Several colorful umbrellas and chairs lined the Ocean City shore Thursday as beach goers read magazines and sunbathed under a clear blue sky. The relaxing scene was no indication of the high winds and rain expected to whip through the area in a few hours.

Hurricane Earl is expected to pass through about 200 miles from the town's coast beginning early Friday morning until Friday afternoon.

“Once the storm leaves, it'll be a beautiful day,” Town Mayor Richard W. Meehan said. “I think the timing of the event happens to work in our favor.”

A hurricane watch is in effect and residents are being asked to stay indoors when the storm passes. Town officials also placed restrictions on being in the water. By Thursday afternoon, no one was allowed in the ocean unless they were a surfer with proper equipment.

That's because the ocean “is sometimes dangerous, even up to your knees,” said Joseph Theobald, the town's emergency services director. However, a few people could still be seen splashing in the water Thursday.

The town is expecting winds of 30 mph to 40 mph, and gusts reaching up to 55 mph. As a result, residents and businesses are being asked to secure loose furniture and other objects on balconies, patios or decks. One to two inches of rain and moderate flooding in the low lying areas are expected.

Sussex County in Delaware is anticipating similar conditions. But Joseph L. Thomas, director of the county's emergency operations center, advised residents to remain vigilant.

"Although the forecast has changed little, that should not lull the public into a false sense of security," he said.

Labor Day weekend is one of Ocean City's biggest holiday weekends, with about 250,000 visitors. Town officials are asking tourists to delay their visits rather than cancel them.

“It may affect tourism,” town spokeswoman Donna Abbott said. “We're hoping that it's not a complete washout.”

But the forecast was enough for some tourists to leave earlier then planned. David Yeldell, of Northwest Washington, had planned to stay through Saturday, but decided to head home tearly.

Yeldell and his two sons took one last stroll along the boardwalk before leaving Thursday.

“What can we do, with the weather being terrible?” he asked while his sons tossed a football nearby.

Yeldell watched the news to track the hurricane, but ultimately relied on his son Khalil's forecast. Yeldell said his sons live in the Caribbean and are familiar with tropical storms.

Khalil, 13, said the clustered clouds and dark water indicated a storm was on its in way. That was enough for Yeldell to cut their vacation short and prepare to leave.

“It's better to get away from it than drive through it,” Yeldell said.

“Yeah, that's a Category 4; that's worse than Katrina,” Khalil added in a matter-of-fact tone.

Other tourists planned to wait out the storm. Jesse Dorais, of Philadelphia, arrived Thursday and planned to stay through Monday. He was nonchalant about losing a vacation day to the hurricane.

“Everybody's kind of saying it's going to be a wash tomorrow. It is what it is,” Dorais said with a shrug.

But losing a day to the storm could deal a financial blow to shop owners who rely on Labor Day sales before business slows in the fall.

“If the weather is going to be that bad, we'll probably close,” said Avinash Basnet, an employee at T-Shirt Factory on the boardwalk. “It's pretty bad, to tell you the truth.”

By Erica Johnston  | September 2, 2010; 5:39 PM ET
Categories:  DC, Maryland, Virginia  
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Next: Earl is now a Category 2 storm


Don't leave! Staying through a hurricane at the beach is one of the most interesting ocean experiences that you can have! It's humbling to watch the power of nature at it's strongest. Trashcans flying through the streets.

Posted by: MEOWMAN | September 2, 2010 8:52 PM | Report abuse

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