COCOA BEACH — A weakening Hurricane Danielle brought dangerous rip currents to Florida’s east coast over the weekend, claiming the life of a surfer.
Brevard County Fire Rescue Lt. Jeffrey Taylor said the man was found unconscious in an unsupervised beach area in Cocoa Beach and was transported to a hospital, where he died. Officials say about 50 people had to be rescued from rip currents at beaches off Cocoa Beach, and 20 more rescues were made at other beaches in the county. Volusia County beach patrol Capt. Scott Petersohn says rescue workers also pulled a couple dozen people from the surf.
Hurricane Danielle, a Category 1 storm, was gradually weakening Sunday as it headed over the open Atlantic northeast of the British territory of Bermuda.
Elsewhere, officials in Puerto Rico set up emergency shelters and canceled flights Sunday as newly born Hurricane Earl churned toward the northern Caribbean. Cruise lines diverted ships to avoid the storm’s path.
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The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that Earl, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, was approaching the northernmost Leeward Islands. It could become a major hurricane by Tuesday — probably while north of Puerto Rico.
At 11 p.m. Sunday, Earl was about 130 miles east of St. Martin, where the storm’s outer bands were starting to bring rain. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from its center.
Earl could bring batter- ing waves and storm surge of up to three feet above normal tide levels in some areas, according to fore- casters. Earl had several bands of thunderstorms wrapped around its center, forecasters said, and heavy rains could cause flash floods and mudslides.
Forecasters also said there is a chance the hurricane could brush the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region toward the end of the week, with its closest approach to North Carolina on Thursday.
In any case, the U.S. East Coast is likely to see pounding surf from Earl.
Meanwhile, people on several Caribbean islands spent time Sunday stuffing shopping carts with bottled water, canned food, milk, candles and batteries, while some tourists scrambled to board flights home. Others enjoyed the beach while they could.
“I’m just trying get a good suntan in while the weather is still cooperating,” said Linda Curren of New York City, sunbathing on San Juan’s Ocean Park beach as a few surfers paddled into pounding waves.
In Antigua, the V.C. Bird International Airport was set to close Sunday, while regional airline LIAT suspended several flights. Cruise ships diverted to other ports in the Caribbean and Mexico.
Hardware stores were doing a brisk business in plywood and boards as jittery residents and employees of gleaming tourist hotels prepared to safeguard windows and doors.
“We haven’t been hit for quite a few years, but you may never know — this might be the time,” said Ashley Benta, from the Antiguan town of Gray’s Farm.
Fishermen and yacht owners tied down vessels in harbors scattered the northern Caribbean.