Storm Hermine roared through communities along the Atlantic coast, battering beaches from the Outer Banks to the Delmarva Peninsula with blustery winds and rain but sparing many areas inland.

Up to 18cm of rain fell and 50-to-100km/h winds blew from North Carolina to the Eastern Shore, chasing tourists and disrupting Labour Day weekend plans as the US bade farewell to the summer season.

The centre of the fast-moving storm, hurrying to the Northeast, was expected to be off Chincoteague Island, Virginia, today, and possibly resume hurricane strength in coming days.

The National Weather Service posted storm warnings and watches as far north as Cape Cod, and officials said they were concerned about flooding today.

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"There is still considerable uncertainty as to how many of the characteristics of a tropical cyclone Hermine will have while it is off of the coast of the Mid-Atlantic and New England," the National Hurricane Centre said.

The storm has a rather elongated circulation, the centre said: "Regardless of its structure, Hermine is expected to be a vigorous storm with a large wind field that will cause wind, storm surge and surf hazards along the coast".

Hermine was downgraded from tropical storm status yesterday. By Wednesday, it was forecast to be stalled over warm water in the 80s southeast of Long Island, National Weather Service senior meteorologist Luis Rosa said.

"The system will begin to slow down . . . and by [tomorrow], it's not going to move much. It's going to be sitting over water temperatures that are supportive of hurricane formation."

Offshore, from the Baltimore Canyon to Cape Charles, Virginia, waves as high as 11m were expected today, with visibility 1.5km or less, the Weather Service said. A hurricane warning was issued for the open ocean off southern New Jersey and Delaware, with winds approaching 120km/h.

On shore, the threat of storm surge and flooding loomed all along the coast, especially in southeastern Virginia.

"One of the biggest concerns . . . is the onshore wind flow that is likely to persist into the coming week," noted Ian Livingston of the Capital Weather Gang. "As the storm slows down, thanks to a high pressure to the north blocking its path out to sea, winds rotating around it towards shore will continue to pile water into the coast. Major beach erosion . . . dangerous surf, torrential rain, and serious coastal flooding are all likely. Surge levels will be high everywhere but will also vary a bit. In the Hampton Roads area, surge is expected to be between (1 and 1.5m). Similar [surge] is anticipated from Chincoteague to Sandy Hook, New Jersey."

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a state of emergency ahead of the storm. During a news conference yesterday, he said a lot of wind and rain was expected. Already, there was a 1m surge at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

In Maryland, a state of emergency was in effect for Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, Worcester, Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.

Ocean City Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald and state Senator James Mathias, said that today could see significant flooding if water from high tides is unable to get back out to sea because of strong northeast winds. Theobald said the flooding this time will fall just short of what the city had four years ago during Hurricane Sandy. The city has ordered everyone to stay out of the ocean.