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Tri-State Playing Waiting Game With Hurricane Earl

Updated 9/2/2010 6:11 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880/ 1010 WINS) -- Much of the East Coast is watching and waiting for an unwelcome guest this holiday weekend: Hurricane Earl.

The category four storm is said to be barreling towards the Eastern Seaboard and many residents and vacationers on the outer banks of North Carolina aren't taking any chances. Many have left the area, as the monster hurricane could reach the state late Thursday or Early Friday and the governor has declared a state of emergency.

In our area, tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Long Island coast and the Jersey Shore. Beaches were already seeing rough surf, and boats were being tied down.  As of Thursday morning, there were no plans to evacuate, but it is still a waiting game.

EXTRA: Hurricane and Tropical Storm Guide

CBS 2, WCBS 880 and 1010 WINS have a team of reporters in the area checking to see how people are getting ready.

Residents are hoping the storm is all bark and no bite, but even if Earl stays well offshore, it will kick up rough surf and dangerous rip currents up and down the coast through the Labor Day weekend -- a prime time for beach vacations.

LISTEN: 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera with LIPA officials
LISTEN: WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reports from Spring Lake
LISTEN: WCBS 880's Sophia Hall with preparations in Farmingdale
LISTEN: 1010 WINS' John Montone reports from Belmar, NJ
LISTEN: WCBS 880 LI Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs on Westhampton Beach
LISTEN: WCBS 880's Marla Diamond with advice from the Red Cross in Manhattan

Emergency workers up and down the East coast are urging residents to have disaster plans ready. Nassau and Suffolk counties had their emergency operation centers up and running and Red Cross volunteers were on standby.

The Office of Emergency Management in Yaphank was being staffed 24/7 in anticipation of Earl, and while officials aren't panicking – and don't want residents to either –  they are bracing for everything from flooding and high winds to emergency evacuations.

"Since we're not going to be getting hit straight on, it does not look, at this moment at least, there will be a need to evacuate," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. "That can change."

Suffolk County has created a brand new alert system. They are urging residents to sign up on their Web site to be instantly notified of any evacuations or emergency. For more information, click here.

On Oak Beach Island, people were watching the storm coverage, and tying down the things that could get swept away.

"We'll tie the boat down, we got all our  food ready...and pray that we don't get hammered, that's all," Keith Kebe told CBS 2's Lou Young.

Nowhere is the anxiety higher than along Dune Road in Quogue, where public and private money have gone into a new set of sand dunes to stop the surf.

"We're certainly hopeful that Earl will come and go very quickly," Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said.

Ryan Fay, a Quogue Village Beach Manager and a schoolteacher, is panicked that Earl will bear down on the Hamptons with a vicious sucker punch, ruining the labor day weekend - and more.

"Millions of dollars went into this," he said. "And now we're worried it could happen again or worse."

The memories of destruction from nor'easters last November and this March  remain vivid for residents.

"The damage…it was a disaster down here," Fay said. "We lost all our decks and the village beach – wasn't much beach left."

In Nassau County, 2,000 Red Cross volunteers were on standby, with 50 emergency shelters ready to open at a moment's notice – each one already filled with 1,000 cots, blankets and other emergency supplies.

"We have the capacity on Long Island to shelter up to 60,000 people for five days," said Sam Kille of the Nassau County Red Cross.

The Long Island Power Authority has also requested about 1,600 crews from out of state to help with any power outages or fallen trees. LIPA said it's moving crews to the East End which is supposed to bear the brunt of Earl.

The first effects of Hurricane Earl are already being felt in parts of New Jersey.

Huge waves of lifeguards are on alert at the beach in Spring Lake. Earl is making the surf so dangerous that red flags are posted in many areas, and cautionary yellow flags have been raised in areas where swimming is still allowed.

"Yellow flag means you have to stay between knee- and waist-high; if you're on a floating device, you need to have a pair of swim fins," lifeguard Rob Monteleone said.

Some, though, are not heeding the warnings, making the job of lifeguards more stressful. Parents were worried too.

"I was telling these kids before that they'd better watch themselves, because the tide will take you right out, and you're gone," Jim Goudie said.

The concern isn't just with the beaches, but also the bays. Emergency crews swept up gazebos, trash cans and benches from the promenade at Atlantic Highlands Marina, which was hit hard by a spring storm as well.

"The wind is what hurts us here, not necessarily the water," Adam Hubeny, director of Atlantic Highlands Emergency Management, said. "We don't have a lot of flooding in Atlantic Highlands, but the wind is tremendous blowing through here."

Along the Jersey Shore, some businesses were bracing for the possibility of another round of damaging floods.

Beverly Najarian, of Sea Girt, said she has no sea wall protecting her oceanfront home.

"We'll just move out the furniture, put away the table and put everything back and you know, hope for the best," she told CBS 2's Sean Hennessey.

In Long Branch, surfers were taking advantage of the waves Earl is delivering.

"I want them to be big but not damaging," Erica Byrnes said.

At the tiki bar behind Donovan's Reef restaurant in Sea Bright, owner Bob Phillips and manager Susie Markson were dreading the potentially powerful Earl heading up the coast.

"We're concerned about the surge coming forward," Markson said.

"Very concerned, absolutely," said Phillips. "It's very scary. The only thing you can do is go out and prepare for it."

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

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