Gov. Larry Hogan ordered the Maryland National Guard to deploy units to Ocean City on Saturday, as the coast remained under a tropical storm warning and is expected to see significant flooding.
National Guard officials announced the deployment as Tropical Storm Hermine regained strength and continued moving slowly up the Eastern Seabord. Guard officials called the deployment a "precautionary measure," but said that in previous storms the Guard has used Humvees and other tactical trucks to drive through high water.
Ocean City officials said they planned to close the Inlet parking lot and beach at 8:30 p.m. Saturday until further notice, and expected that tropical storm conditions would last through Monday.
Hogan also issued a warning to residents who planned to travel to Ocean City for the Labor Day weekend.
"I have reached out to Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and agree with his assessment — anyone planning to travel to the beach this weekend that has not already departed should stay home until this storm has passed," Hogan said in a statement. "I encourage all Marylanders, especially those on the Lower Shore, to use common sense and stay safe during this time."
By 5 a.m. Sunday, Hermine's top sustained winds remained at 65 mph as it moved east-northeast at 12 mph. The storm, expected to turn northward on Sunday, was centered about 255 miles southeast of Ocean City.
Forecasters expected Hermine to regain hurricane force on Sunday as it travels up the coast before weakening again to a tropical storm by Tuesday.
Hermine rose up over the Gulf of Mexico and hit Florida on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane before weakening across Georgia.
The storm has caused two deaths, damaged properties and left hundreds of thousands without electricity from Florida to Virginia. It also spawned a tornado in North Carolina.
"This is not a beach weekend for anyone in the Mid-Atlantic to the northeast," said Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
Tropical Storm warnings were in effect as far north as Connecticut, with dangerous storm surge expected along the coast from Virginia to New Jersey.
Governors all along the coast announced emergency preparations. Hogan on Friday declared a state of emergency in the counties of the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland, including Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, Worcester, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's.
Forecasters said the system could strengthen back into a hurricane Monday through Wednesday as it moves on an offshore path from the waters of Maryland to Connecticut, before weakening again off New England.
The timing couldn't be worse for communities along the coast hoping for revenue from Labor Day events.
"It will really affect business this weekend," said Greg Shockley, who owns Shenanigans Bar & Restaurant at Fourth Street and the boardwalk in Ocean City.
"Normally, the beach would be full by now, so would the boardwalk," he said. "Yesterday was a beautiful day. We had an excellent day. We had people out on the boardwalk."
But on Saturday morning, he saw only about 40 on the boardwalk and a handful of people on the beach. The lifeguards were not in their chairs to watch for swimmers but instead on the beach to keep an eye on conditions, he said.
"It is raining and windy and the tide's up a little bit, that's concerning," he said. "We're right at the end of the sea wall. The way they are talking, the ocean is going to pile up pretty good."
Already, he said the waves were about 100 feet from the boardwalk, and normally it's about 300 feet from the boardwalk.
Shockley said he would close Shenanigans if conditions become dangerous. He said he wants to make sure his employees are safe, including some foreign students who are working at the restaurant for the summer and have never experienced a tropical storm.
"They've never lived anything like this," said Shockley, who has been in business since 1988.
Swimming in the ocean has been prohibited during the storm.
Maryland Emergency Management Agency officials urged residents, particularly those on the Eastern Shore, to monitor forecasts and prepare for power outages, in addition to flooding.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this article.