High winds, dangerous rip currents and potential coastal flooding could turn parts of Long Island into a soggy and treacherous mess as the area braces for a glancing but powerful blow from Hurricane Jose — one of two strong tropical storms on the National Hurricane Center’s watch list Sunday.
The Miami-based hurricane center issued a tropical storm watch for Long Island on Sunday ahead of Jose. The Category 1 Hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph by Sunday night, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 p.m. update. The storm was 315 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, South Carolina and 450 miles west of Bermuda, according to the hurricane center.
Forecasters predicted Jose will weaken to tropical storm status as it moves north but will still bring heavy rain to Long Island as it passes to the southeast late Tuesday night through early Wednesday.
Brian Ciemnecki, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Upton bureau, said Sunday morning that “the seas are starting to come up, and there is a high risk of rip currents, so people shouldn’t go in the water.”
The rip currents were “severe” Sunday at Hither Hills State Park in Montauk, with waves from 5 to 7 feet, forcing officials to ban swimming there. Rip currents were “strong” at Jones Beach Field 2, state parks officials said.
George Gorman, state parks deputy regional director for Long Island, said there will be expanded patrols in more sections of the state’s beaches beginning Monday in preparation for the full effects of the storm. Sunday was the final day of the season in which lifeguards are on duty at state parks and beaches, he said.
“We will have patrols on the beach to ensure people stay out of the water so they are not endangered,” Gorman said Sunday. “We are going to keep everyone safe.”
The National Weather Service predicted that Jose has the potential to bring tropical storm-force winds and three to five inches of rain on eastern Long Island before it moves on as well as minor tree damage and scattered power outages.
Ciemnecki said the “biggest threat” to Long Island could occur during the day from Tuesday to Wednesday, with the potential for increased winds and rain. Vulnerable areas may expect coastal flooding, Ciemnecki said.
In Long Beach, city spokesman Gordon Tepper said Sunday “we are monitoring Jose closely, but the beaches have been fine this weekend.”
Behind Jose on Sunday night was Hurricane Maria, a storm churning up the Atlantic that continued to gain strength as it kept to a northwest path. Maria’s track could see it pass through many of the Caribbean islands already coping with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
Hurricane or tropical storm warnings were issued Sunday for the Leeward Islands, including St. Barts, Antigua and Barbuda. Maria, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph late Sunday afternoon, was on a path aiming by late Monday toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Maria could make a direct hit on Puerto Rico, forecasters said. The commonwealth was spared the full brunt of Irma, though power was knocked out to much of the island.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello said officials had prepared about 450 shelters with a capacity for nearly 68,000 people — or even 125,000 in an emergency. He said schools were canceled for Monday and government employees would work only a half day.
Officials in the Dominican Republic urged people to leave areas prone to flooding and said fishermen should remain in port.
With The Associated Press