Will Earl Wash Out Holiday Beach Plans?

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Thousands of Washington-area residents could be on their way to the beach this Labor Day holiday weekend.

And Hurricane Earl may be there to greet them.

AAA said nearly 790,000 Washingtonians are planning to travel 50 miles or more from home during this holiday weekend. About 43 percent of them will be going to the beach or waterfront, according to AAA (originally AAA said 32 percent, but has since corrected its numbers).

Those headed to an East Coast beach could find their plans blown away or washed out by Earl, which is now a Category 4 hurricane and is on a path that will put it very close to the Atlantic coast this weekend.

Right now, Earl could brush the U.S. East Coast late Thursday before curving back out to sea, potentially swiping New England or far-eastern Canada. The U.S. National Hurricane Center warns coastal residents -- and holiday travelers -- from North Carolina to Maine to watch the storm closely.

The Hurricane Center said it's too early to say what effect Earl would have in the U.S., but warned it could at least kick up dangerous rip currents. A surfer died in Florida and a swimmer in Maryland had been missing since Saturday in waves spawned by former Hurricane Danielle, which weakened to a tropical storm Monday far out in the north Atlantic.

On Monday, swimmers on the guarded beach of the family resort of Ocean City, N.J., were being told not to go into the water beyond
waist-deep as violent waves pounded the beach. And that was an improvement over the weekend's conditions, when lifeguards in shore communities in New Jersey pulled out scores of struggling swimmers.

On Saturday, it was so rough that even surf schools scrapped their lessons. And while Sunday was a bit better, boogie boards were still barred.

"One way or the other, the weather forecast will have a direct impact on the travel forecast," said AAA's John Townsend. "The impact of the hurricane on travel this weekend will depend on what the storm does in the next 48 hours. However, with more people traveling this year than last and even more of those planning to drive, what we do know is that roadways will be busy."

AAA gives the following tips for travelers this weekend:

  • Stay abreast of local forecasts both at your departure city and your destination.
  • Check your airline flight status before leaving for the airport.
  • Check with your hotel for local updates on the storm’s impact.
  • Monitor weather conditions on a regular basis, as things can change quickly.
  • Travel with only a carry-on bag when flying to give you greater flexibility if your schedule changes, and so that you will have necessities with you if you are delayed.
  • Pack emergency "creature comforts" with you like snacks, rain coats, and extra clothing, etc. A flashlight with extra batteries, radio and extra water are a good idea, if going to a beach house.
  • Heed all evacuation advisories and/or orders.

AAA said travel has been up during holiday weekends this summer in Washington. The organization said that, compared to last year, there was a 6 percent increase over Memorial Day weekend, an 18.4 percent increase over the Fourth of July weekend and an 8.9 percent increase over Labor Day weekend.

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