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Weakened, But Still Powerful Earl Headed Near Tri-State

NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880/ 1010 WINS/AP) -- Forecasters said Hurricane Earl was weakening as it passed over North Carolina's Outer Banks early Friday, but was still packing powerful winds as it headed up the Eastern Seaboard.

The National Hurricane Center said Earl's winds were now at about 105 mph -- which is Category 2 strength. A new tropical storm warning was issued for New England from the coasts of Massachusetts to Maine.

In our area, a Tropical Storm Watch was issued for New York City and much of the Tri-State's eastern shores are under a Tropical Storm Warning. So what exactly can you expect from Mother Nature?

LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reports from Long Beach
LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Stan Brooks reports from Borough Hall in Brooklyn
LISTEN: WCBS 880's Rich Lamb with preparations in Brooklyn
LISTEN: CBS News correspondent Jim Krasula in Kill Devil Hills, NC
LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera: Fire Island ferry terminal in Bay Shore
LISTEN: CBS News Weatherman Dave Price in Chesapeake, Virginia
LISTEN: WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs: Hamptons ready for Earl, holiday weekend
LISTEN: WCBS 880's Sean Adams: Big waves at the Jersey Shore

CBS 2 meteorologist Lonnie Quinn said Earl could become a category 1 storm by 2p.m. Friday afternoon.

The storm's expected path means the Tri-State area won't take a direct hit and while Earl is certainly cause for concern, it won't be nearly as devastating as past storms.

However, some hurricane experts said residents should remain alert.

EXTRAS: Hurricane and Tropical Storm Guide | Storm Tracker

"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.

At the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Flushing Meadows, Queens, officials were hopeful that the matches could go on.

"If it [Hurricane Earl] maintains the current size it's at, there's a very good chance we could be affected," said Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the United States Tennis Association.

CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported from Bay Head that the waters of the Manasquan River were visibly "getting choppy" by Thursday.

Closer to the ocean, the effects of Earl -- including huge waves engulfing surfers, boats maneuvering in rough waters and closed beaches -- could be seen.

"We're noticing the swell and I think the outer bands of the storm are approaching we're noticing the swell of the ocean boiling up from that," NJ State Police Trooper Rick Pokorny said.

"This is only the tip of the iceberg I think we can expect a lot more [Friday] and [Friday] night," Porkorny said.

Earl's ascent has also led to some rough surf along the Jersey Shore.

CBS 2's Scott Rapoport reported that several areas of Manasquan Beach had already been red flagged -- barring people from swimming there. The danger is a result of rip currents -- brought on by the impending arrival of Earl.

Even if Earl stays well offshore, it will kick up rough surf and dangerous rip currents up and down the coast through Labor Day weekend.

"This is the strongest hurricane to threaten the northeast and New England since Hurricane Bob in 1991," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. "They don't get storms this powerful very often."

Suffolk County officials decided to close all ocean-based beaches Thursday afternoon.

The possibility of the impending hurricane means travel trouble looms for airline passengers at local airports.

CBS NEW YORK GUIDE: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Delays and cancellations are expected at airports up and down the East Coast this weekend. Continental said its hub at Newark Liberty Airport will likely be affected by the storm.

Several airlines are now allowing passengers to reschedule their trips and avoid the hurricane without a penalty -- including Continental, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Airways, AirTran and Frontier.

That move can save air travelers anywhere from $50 to $100.

With the forecast on Earl constantly changing stay with over the coming days for the latest updates.

List of counties currently under severe weather watches and warnings:

Tropical Storm Watch in CT - Southern Fairfield

Tropical Storm Warning in CT - Southern Middlesex , Southern New Haven , Southern New London

Inland Tropical Wind Watch in CT - Northern New London

Tropical Storm Warning in NJ - Coastal Ocean , Eastern Monmouth , Ocean , Southeastern Burlington , Western Monmouth

Tropical Storm Watch in NJ - Essex , Hudson , Middlesex , Union

Tropical Storm Watch - Bronx , Kings (Brooklyn) , Nassau , New York (Manhattan) , Queens , Richmond (Staten Is.) , Southern Westchester

Tropical Storm Warning - Northeast Suffolk , Northwest Suffolk , Southeast Suffolk , Southwest Suffolk

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