Forecasters say Hurricane Bonnie may hit U.S. soil sometime this week, but it's already causing problems all along the coast.
At least two swimmers died and scores more needed to be saved by lifeguards on East Coast beaches.
Rip tides were blamed for the deaths on Sunday of a 25-year-old man in South Carolina and a 24-year-old man in Delaware. Lifeguards reported 30 rescues in Carolina Beach, N.C. and 100 in Atlantic City, N.J.
"The rip tides haven't been this bad since 1995, and we're expecting them to be even worse over the next few days," said Carolina Beach Police Chief Mark Dunford. "I can't tell people to stay out of the water, but I'm strongly recommending that swimmers and surfers do not go out there."
Waves reportedly reached 8 feet in South Carolina and 4 feet in Atlantic City.
About the size of Texas, Bonnie is a category 3 hurricane. It intensified Sunday with winds nearing 115 miles per hour. Bonnie is already strong enough to cause destruction over a wide swath of land, wherever it comes ashore.
"This is going to be a monster hurricane if it comes ashore," said Meteorologist Brian Norcross of CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami. "Hugo-force winds are going to extend 100 miles, maybe 130 miles across the coast line. This is a major, major hurricane event that we will be talking about for a long time."
The National Weather Service said waves and rip tides will probably increase as Bonnie approaches the coast. Bonnie could grow stronger, but forecasters doubted it would reach the Category 4 level, with winds of at least 131 mph.
At 5 a.m. EDT on Monday, the National Hurricane Center outside Miami reported the 300-mile wide storm was centered about 165 miles east-northeast of San Salvador in the central Bahamas.