Hermine spun away from the US East Coast, removing the threat of heavy rain but maintaining enough power to whip up dangerous waves and rip currents and keep beaches off-limits.
As it churned hundreds of kilometres off shore in the Atlantic Ocean, the system picked up strength, and forecasters said it could regain hurricane force later as it travels up the coast.
It was expected to stall over the water before weakening again to a tropical storm by Wednesday.
"It's just going to meander for a few days," said Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Centre, explaining that Hermine was unlikely to make landfall again but was positioned to batter the coast with wind and waves.
Governors all along the Eastern Seaboard announced emergency preparations. Tropical storm watches and warnings were in effect from Virginia to Massachusetts, with special concern focused on New Jersey and Delaware, where Rehoboth Beach could experience gusts up to 80km/h and life-threatening storm surges during high tide today and into tomorrow.
On the Virginia Beach boardwalk, the Atlantic Ocean roared with uncharacteristically large waves, drawing only a couple of surfers into the choppy white water. But hundreds, if not thousands of people, had descended onto the beach for the traditional last weekend of summer.
Umbrellas and canopies dotted the sand under partly sunny skies.
Hermine failed to stop Barb and Don Willis of Buffalo, New York, from enjoying the trip they booked months ago. They even braved the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on Sunday as the wind whipped their car and the bay rose close to the bridge's bottom.
"That was so scary," Barb Willis said. "Oh my God. My hands were white knuckles, and the water was so high. It was horrible," she said.
The couple, both in their 60s, said they knew the storm would blow over, even as friends texted their concerns.
Tropical storm-force winds were possible tomorrow in New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie warned that minor to moderate flooding was still likely in coastal areas and said the storm will cause major problems, even as it tracks away from land.
"Don't be lulled by the nice weather," Christie said, referring to the bright sunny skies along the Jersey Shore. "Don't think that nothing is going to happen, because something is going to happen."
New York City planned to close its beaches tomorrow because of rip currents, and the ban could extend into Wednesday, depending on weather conditions, officials said.