Train service was suspended in the Northeast, flights were delayed or canceled up and down the Eastern seaboard and coastal roads washed out. Even Interstate 95, the most heavily traveled highway in the East and a gateway to the beaches of Cape Cod and Maine, was expected to flood in Rhode Island.
Amtrak suspended service between New York and Boston until Saturday morning after a tree fell across electrical lines in New London, Conn., at about 12:30 p.m. The rail carrier already had planned to stop service by 4:30 p.m. due to the storm.
Continental Airlines had canceled about 60 flights by Friday afternoon, and some regional carriers had done the same, though other major carriers reported few or no cancellations.
Southwest Airlines said it canceled flights Friday at three East Coast airports — Islip, N.Y., Providence, R.I., and Boston's Logan Airport — as the hurricane approached. The airline expected to resume service at all three by Saturday morning.
Southwest expected to resume flights Friday afternoon in Norfolk, Va., where flights were canceled starting Thursday night.
Arriving flights at New York's LaGuardia airports were delayed about half an hour Friday because of weather, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
On Massachusetts' Cape Cod, ferries to and from Nantucket were suspended at noon, leaving some vacationers stranded on the mainland. On the island, a steady line of pickup trucks towed boats to safe storage until the storm passed, assistant town manager Gregg Tivnan said.
In Atlantic City, Bob Quinn of Rochester, N.Y., was planning to leave ahead of the storm Friday.
"We were going to be leaving Friday by noon, so we figured we would probably catch the good weather and get out of here just before the bad stuff came in," Quinn said.
One man drowned in rough surf in New Jersey on Tuesday and another was missing after going into the ocean Thursday night, state officials said.
Ellen McDonough of Boston and a friend were waiting in Hyannis on Friday morning for one of the last ferries to Nantucket. The two had long planned a Labor Day weekend getaway to the island.
"It's not a 3-foot snowstorm. I think us New Englanders are tough," McDonough said. "We've had this weekend planned, and no hurricane is going to stop us."
The National Weather Service was forecasting winds up to 65 mph on Nantucket, with gusts up to 85 mph. Earl packed winds that had reached 145 mph before losing strength.
In North Carolina, portions of Highway 12, the main artery through the Outer Banks, were closed because of tidal flooding. Officials said the road to and from Hatteras Island — home to seven villages — would stay closed through Friday.
The highway is critical should residents and tourists who obeyed evacuation orders try to return soon. Several counties had asked people to leave risky areas, including Ocracoke and Hatteras islands.
On Ocracoke, Highway 12 was open to 4-wheel-drive traffic early Friday, Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell said. Officials hoped to open the road to all vehicles by the end of the day.
Farther north, Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri urged drivers to stay off Interstate 95, which was expected to flood Friday evening.
In Maine, two cruise ships, including the Explorer of the Seas with about 3,000 passengers, sought the safety of Portland Harbor to ride out the storm. Hundreds of smaller boats were pulled from the water up and down the coast.
Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie in Boston; Bob Salsberg in Hyannis, Mass.; Tom Breen in Kill Devil Hills, N.C.; Eric Tucker in Providence, R.I.; David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Angelique Yack in Atlantic City, N.J.; and AP Airlines Writers Joshua Freed in Minneapolis and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.