JERSEY SHORE —Hurricane Earl, a powerful Category 4 storm churning in the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to deliver deadly rip currents, big surf and potentially tropical-storm force winds as it skirts the New Jersey coastline Friday. If Earl keeps to its current course, it will remain 150 to 200 miles offshore as it clips the Outer Banks of North Carolina Wednesday and passes New Jersey during the day Friday, but it will still churn up the sea and keep lifeguards along the Jersey Shore on high alert.
Some forecasters and emergency management officials are warning residents up and down the East Coast — including the Garden State — to remain on high alert in case the storm drifts further west than computer models are projecting.
Kristin Kline, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Mount Holly office, said Earl — assuming it stays on its current path — won’t pack much of a punch by the time it reaches New Jersey, but it will stir up dangerous rip currents and some big surf. She also said that we need to be aware and prepare.
But the effects of its northerly march will be seen long before its expected arrival late Thursday into Friday. The ocean will start churning up Wednesday, creating rip currents and high surf that should last through Friday before diminishing Saturday as the storm pulls out, Kline said.
The U.S. Coast Guard had also dispatched a helicopter and a boat to spearhead the search for a missing 23-year-old male in Asbury Park today, according to Petty Officer Jonathan Lindbergh, an agency spokesman. Lindbergh said the man went into the surf sometime after 5 p.m. and has not resurfaced.
The American Red Cross, which trains the lifeguards on the Jersey Shore, is urging beachgoers to be especially attentive and vigilant, said Melissa DeGennaro, a spokeswoman for the organization’s Jersey Coast chapter.
‘‘Labor Day weekend — the pressure’s on,’’ she said. ‘‘We’re trying to be ahead of the game. There’s going to be a lot of people here. We’re preparing for the worst situation.Maybe the eye of the storm isn’t going to pass over New Jersey, but there are a lot of flood-prone areas at the Shore.”
Earl is expected to usher in showers and thunderstorms in Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May counties tomorrow into Friday, but not in the form of torrential downpours. Kline said only a quarter-inch to a half-inch of rain should fall if the storm stays on its current track.
Tropical-storm force winds of up to 40 mph will hit the southern coast, most likely from Atlantic City and down, Kline said. Those winds, pushing water toward the coast, also means that area has the better chance of experiencing flooding, which should be minor, she said.