Updated 09/02/2010 11:34 PM
Hurricane Earl Loses Force Near North Carolina
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Hurricane Earl has slowed to a Category 3 storm as it heads toward the North Carolina coastline, but our area could still experience high waves and strong rip currents through the weekend.
While the hurricane's winds continue to diminish, at 115 mph they are still strong enough to cause damage to North Carolina's Outer Banks.
Hundreds of thousands of people left the area under a mandatory evacuation order.
President Barack Obama, as well as the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, have declared states of emergency opening the door for quicker relief efforts.
The National Guard also has troops standing by.
The hurricane's eye is expected to remain about 30 to 75 miles east of the Outer Banks, but forecasters say hurricane-force winds are quickly spreading out up to 90 miles from the eye.
That means beach erosion and property damage is probable as the storm heads up the coast.
A tropical storm watch is in effect in the city, and a tropical storm warning has been issued for Long Island and Boston, Massachusetts.
In Queens, some residents who are all too familiar with flooding say they are taking nothing for granted.
Sandbags line the shore along Jamaica Bay in Broad Channel, and area residents are moving their valuables in preparation for rising flood waters.
The neighborhood is prone to flooding, even without a hurricane off shore.
"My garage is empty. I got all my things that are expensive in high spots, I took my car out," said one resident. "And everything goes up in the air, because the salt water, it'll kill you."
"Make sure the laptop is charged so it keeps the kids busy and out of my hair, and we have flashlights in case the power goes out," said another.
"I'm gonna tie stuff down on my back deck because anything loose will just go flying," said a third.
City officials say there will be no mandatory evacuations for anyone living by the shore, but they have stressed the importance of having individual emergency plans.
The hurricane is also threatening to disrupt travel for the start of the Labor Day weekend.
Several airlines are waiving fees for passengers who would prefer to reschedule their trip rather than fly during the storm. The carriers include Continental, Delta, U.S. Airways, AirTran and Frontier.
Continental Airlines expects Newark Airport to be hit hard with travel delays and cancellations.
John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports will likely see slower arrivals and departures because of the wind gusts late Friday.
Meanwhile, the Long Island Rail Road will suspend service because of the storm.
The railroad is suspending service on Friday to the East End of Long Island because of safety concerns.
That includes service east of Speonk on the Montauk Branch and east of Ronkonkoma on the Main Line.
The Ronkonkoma line typically takes commuters out to Greenport and North Fork.
Commuters traveling west can expect a normal operating schedule.
The railroad will also offer eight early trains between 2 p.m. and 3:48 p.m. from Penn Station heading east.
Those trains will continue to operate to Babylon, Great Neck, Far Rockaway, Hicksville and Huntington.
For more details, visit the LIRR's website at http://MTA.info/LIRR.