Image: Tom Mihalkovitz
Mel Evans  /  AP
Lifeguard Tom Mihalkovitz runs to help a swimmer Monday in rough surf in Seaside Heights, N.J.
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updated 8/30/2010 7:45:06 PM ET 2010-08-30T23:45:06

So much for a perfect finale to the summer vacation season.

On beaches from Maryland to New Jersey, rip currents and strong swells in the Atlantic Ocean associated with Hurricane Danielle meant another day of swimming restrictions Monday.

And it could get worse later in the week. A second hurricane, Earl, strengthened to a Category 4 storm packing winds near 135 mph and battered Puerto Rico on Monday. The storm is expected to zip up the coast, bringing at least more rough seas, and possibly tropical storm conditions, including heavy rain and strong wind to some areas just in time for Labor Day weekend.

Earl is on a path to possibly brush the coast of the U.S. later in the week, moving near North Carolina on Thursday and passing Maine on Saturday. It's too early to tell exactly where it will go.

On Monday, swimmers on the guarded beach of the family resort of Ocean City, N.J., were being told not to go into the water beyond waist-deep as violent waves pounded the beach.

And that was an improvement over the weekend's conditions, when lifeguards in shore communities in New Jersey pulled out scores of struggling swimmers.

On Saturday, it was so rough that even surf schools scrapped their lessons. And while Sunday was a bit better, boogie boards were still barred.

Not that beachgoers like 10-year-old Maggie DiInnocenzo, from Gilbertsville, Pa., were excited to try to ride the waves.

"When you try to swim on your boogie board, you hit your head on the ground," she said.

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Her father, Gregg, keeping a watchful eye from his chair on the sand had two words he repeated every time she thought she'd venture into the water: "Be careful."

Officials were saying the same thing. A guard rode a WaveRunner parallel to the beach to make sure swimmers weren't going too far out and the beachside guards were not shy with their whistles.

While most of the nation's school kids are back in class by this week, that's not the case in New Jersey. The tradition of spending the waning days of summer vacation at the beach is so cherished here that hardly any of the state's schools open before Labor Day.

So despite the strong waves and scorching temperatures — back in the 90s after a brief cool spell — the beach was packed and there were no signs that businesses on the beach or Boardwalk were lacking customers.

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John Ahern, who rents umbrellas and beach chairs for Surf and Sand, said his company was doing fine.

"They're still coming to the beach and sitting," Ahern said. "It's hot, the sun's out, and they need protection."

And at 7th Street Surf Shop, the attitude about the harsh waves is even more relaxed. Sure, some lessons might be canceled. But there's another side.

"It brings fun waves to surf," said clerk and instructor Mike Ammirata.

And even Gregg DiInnocenzo, the worrywart dad, found a silver lining to what he said are the biggest waves he's seen in his three decades of coming to the shore.

"It's too rough for shark sightings," he said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Interactive: Hurricane Tracker

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Video: Atlantic hurricanes churn offshore

  1. Transcript of: Atlantic hurricanes churn offshore

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Let us begin on a Monday morning, though, with these dangerous storms out in the Atlantic . We're going to get Al 's forecast in a moment. But first, let's turn to NBC 's Kerry Sanders , who just happens to be aboard a research ship mapping images of the wreck of the Titanic . That project is now on hold as the ship steers clear of Hurricane Danielle . And Kerry joins us by phone. Kerry , good morning.

    KERRY SANDERS reporting: Well, good morning, Matt. We're shrouded in fog here this morning in the

    North Atlantic and we're......basically as fast as we can, about 10 miles an hour, to get ahead of these storms which have already caused serious problems on the East Coast . Up and down the East Coast , dangerous, rough surf slammed the beaches.

    Unidentified Woman: The waves are big. Almost sucked me under at one point.

    SANDERS: From Daytona, Florida...

    Unidentified Man #1: The surf's really picked up.

    SANDERS: ...to Ocean City , Maryland , where there were hundreds of rescues and a 23-year-old man disappeared while swimming in the rip tides.

    Ms. SARI DELGADO (Missing Swimmer's Sister): We miss you, we love you. Please come back home.

    SANDERS: Rip currents from Danielle , a distant hurricane, led to at least two drownings.

    Unidentified Man #2: If you're a nonswimmer and you intended to stay in waist-deep water, now you're suddenly pulled into water that's over your head, you got a drowning situation.

    SANDERS: Danielle churned through the Atlantic , moving northeastward following the gulf stream, which is like a highway at sea. On board the research vessel Jean Charcot , our Titanic expedition is now on hold.

    Mr. DAVID GALLO (Titanic Expedition Leader): We had to get out of the way. I mean, it's unsafe for the ship and impossible to work in those conditions.

    SANDERS: The captain began to outrun Hurricane Danielle at 3 AM Sunday.

    Captain JOSE PAULO SILVA: We come out of the track at least at 300 miles to be safe and not to shake too much.

    SANDERS: He was a captain of the fishing vessel in these waters during the Perfect Storm in 1991 , so he knows not to risk it. We're going to be safe.

    Capt. SILVA: Yeah, sure, we're going to be safe.

    SANDERS: The captain says that he......the Titanic expedition will be delayed for about a week. The seas in the coming days over the Titanic site are expected to swell with 40-foot waves, so I'm very glad we left. It is kind of strange think we're running flat-out in fog exactly the way the Titanic did. Of course, the only difference here is there are no

    icebergs this time of year. Matt: That's good to know, Kerry Sanders . Kerry , thank you very much . Good luck to you guys.

    LAUER: Meantime, Al is in Los Angeles tracking these storms. Hey, Al , good morning.

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Hey, good morning, Ann. And it's a one, two, three punch as we see the Atlantic starting to heat up as we get into the heart of hurricane season . First of all, Danielle weakening but still causing problems along the eastern seaboard . Now we have a Hurricane Earl to deal with, a Category 2 storm, may become a 3 within the next 24 hours. Fifty miles east-northeast of St. Martin , 105 mile per hour winds. It's moving west-northwest at 15. Look at that track. It comes right along the eastern seaboard , and part of the cone of uncertainty is right along North Carolina and on into New England . And then the next system could become a tropical storm in the next 48 hours, would be Fiona , and it's expected that Fiona could follow the same track as Earl . So we've got hurricane watches and warnings up for parts of the Caribbean . We're looking, again, for more problems for Earl along the eastern seaboard . Does it make a direct hit? We'll know better in the next two to three days.

    AL ROKER reporting:

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