BOSTON – High wind and heavy surf hit parts of the East Coast on Saturday as the remnants of Hurricane Noel blustered northeastward across the open Atlantic toward the shores of New England.
The worst of the storm could hit during high tide on Saturday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.
"The timing is not that good," he said.
High wind warnings were in effect for coastal Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey and the eastern tip of New York's Long Island.
Sustained wind was expected to reach 40 to 50 mph along the New England coast, potentially up to 70 mph on the coast of Maine. The worst of the wind was expected on Cape Cod and the islands, where isolated gusts could reach 90 mph, the weather service said.
Although the center of the storm was expected to pass about 175 miles east of the eastern tip of Long Island, wind was already affecting that area Saturday morning, with the Long Island Power Authority reporting more than 300 customers blacked out.
Up to 2 inches of rain was possible on eastern Long Island, with wind gusting to 70 mph, the weather service said.
Noel had been blamed for at least 48 deaths in Haiti and 82 in the Dominican Republic, and thousands were homeless because of catastrophic flooding. One death was linked to the storm in the Bahamas, along with one in Jamaica. Extensive damage was reported in Cuba.
On Saturday, coastal flood warning and flood watches were in effect up and down the New England coast. Simpson said Cape Cod could see up to 5 inches of rain, with about 3 inches elsewhere on the Massachusetts coast and up to Maine.
The weather service also posted a winter storm watch for northwestern Maine, where rain was expected to change to snow during the night and produce accumulations of up to 7 inches at higher elevations.
Some coastal residents weren't taking chances. At a Waldbaum's grocery store in the Long Island community of Long Beach, shoppers loaded up on flashlights, bottled water and snacks — "almost like they are having a party," assistant manager Vinny Salamone said.
The deaths in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas made Noel the deadliest storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season.
U.S. Southern Command officials said Friday they would send rescue teams to the Dominican Republic during the weekend. Two helicopters from the U.S. Coast Guard already had been deployed. The United States has contributed more than $1 million in aid.
The United Nations, which has a large peacekeeping force in Haiti, planned to send helicopters to survey flood damage over the country's southern peninsula, which was hit hard by the storm.