A tropical storm watch for all five New York City boroughs and northeast New Jersey was dropped as Hurricane Earl was poised to glance the eastern end of Long Island, deliver a wicked storm and move on toward New England.
As of Friday evening, with Earl still miles from Long Island, the tropical storm warning remained in effect for Long Island, the Jersey shore and coastal Connecticut Friday night.
Word that Earl was diminishing in strength with a downgrade to a Category 1 storm did not stop preparations by authorities determined to protect essential services. It did not weaken the resolve of thrill seekers, but Earl played havoc with traveler's Labor Day plans.
Beaches were closed, boats were put on land, some campgrounds were shut and ferry and train service was stopped as precautionary measures. For a brief time, the U.S. Open was interrupted.
But the long train of cars that snakes its way slowly through 40 miles of the Hamptons over one main artery on every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day was on schedule, despite the threat of Earl.
Although Earl has lost some of its punch, the storm still threatened to disrupt Long Island's holiday weekend, with service being halted on some trains and ferries and beaches and campgrounds closing.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy gave an update on storm preparedness and response as Long Island braces for the wrath of Earl. The county has ready-made units available to help with fallen trees or collapsed buildings and mobile physician units to assist those in need, Levy said.
Levy cautioned residents on the North shore to be wary the storm could hit them harder than expected because of the nature of the wind movement. He also urged residents to call LIPAA's emergency number, not 911, if power lines go down and emphasized 911 should only be called in the case of a life or death emergency. Police are on hand to provide protection if needed.
Pounding surf, minor to moderate beach erosion and life-threatening rip currents were forecast before the storm was expected to wind down after midnight.
The Long Island Rail Road announced it would halt service on two branches on eastern Long Island on Friday afternoon. Suffolk County officials said ferry service between Fire Island and the mainland would halt at about 3 p.m. Several county-run campgrounds also were closing, along with beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, said Dan Aug, a spokesman for the county executive.
The Red Cross said it had 50 shelters, including one dedicated to housing pet owners and their animals, that could be opened with five hours' notice at locations across Long Island.
Despite pronouncements that Long Island doesn't appear to be in the path of a direct hit from Earl, a hurricane expert said residents should remain alert.
"These things are completely unpredictable beasts," said Steven Englebright, the curator of geology at Stony Brook University who is also a New York state assemblyman.
In New Jersey, authorities called off a search for the state's second victim of rough surf caused by the hurricane and its predecessor.
High winds and looming rains forced the Coast Guard to suspend a search for 20-year-old Pardip Singh of Carteret around midday.
Singh went into the ocean at Belmar on Thursday night with a group of people but did not emerge. His disappearance came on the same day that authorities recovered the body of 23-year-old Franky Lezin of Asbury Park, who drowned after entering the roiling waters Tuesday.
In addition to rough surf, the Jersey Shore also had beach erosion. In Long Branch, waves reached to the pilings of the tony Pier Village as people lined the boardwalk to stare at the sea.
American flags fly next to red warning (no swimming) flags as ocean waters lapped at the pilings of a couple of seaside restaurants.
And in Monmouth Beach, wooden steps float in the surf, torn away from access steps repeatedly repaired over a rough summer that saw much beach disappear, only to come back in late August.
An outdoor concert featuring singer Tony Orlando on Friday night was postponed by Nassau County officials. Also, the Nokia at Jones Beach Theater canceled a "Dukes of September" concert Friday night, due to weather, but a Stone Temple Pilots show set for Saturday was still on schedule.
New York City officials said they expected to see only side effects of the storm — mostly rain and high winds, with possible soil erosion on the beaches and flooding along the oceanside coasts of Brooklyn and Queens.
A search-and-rescue team composed of city police and fire department members is heading to Marlborough, Mass., in advance of Hurricane Earl to help out if needed.
The 81-member New York Task Force One, which was deployed to Haiti following the devastating earthquake in January, will depart early Friday with four search dogs, city officials said.
The FEMA-managed team is trained to respond to catastrophic events involving the collapse of heavy steel and concrete and uses specialized listening devices that can detect a heart beat.