By Ben Fractenberg and Mariel S. Clark
MANHATTAN — Hurricane Earl appeared to be fizzling out on Friday as it continued up the coast toward New York.
AccuWeather.com was forecasting just three hours of rain showers in Manhattan Friday, lasting from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and 45 m.p.h. winds on Saturday.
Predictions for East Hampton were slightly worse, with rains continuting until 2 a.m., for a total of 1.26 inches, according to the website.
The National Hurricane Center once again downgraded the storm on Friday to a Category 1 storm with winds of 85 miles per hour.
The hurricane has been steadily weakening as it churned up the coast due mostly to cooler waters and wind shears disrupting the circulation of the storm, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.
Forecasters also lifted tropical storm watches that were in effect for Manhattan and the rest of New York City but did leave eastern Long Island under a tropical storm warning as the area was still expected to get strong winds and big waves as the storm passed by.
Despite the storm's weakening, it could still snarl early holiday plans for New Yorkers heading to the beaches for the Labor Day weekend.
The Long Island Rail Road canceled Friday train service east of Speonk on the Montauk Branch and east of Ronkonkoma on the Main Line. The railroad worried the storm could pull down trees and power lines in the area.
The hurricane is expected to pass about 225 miles east of the city on Friday evening, prompting the National Hurricane Center to issue a tropical storm warning for eastern Long Island and parts of the Jersey shore southeastern Connecticut.
There were no plans to evacuate those areas as of Friday.
Suffolk County officials have closed all county beaches and ocean-based campsites until Saturday morning.
“Even though we might just be getting the tangential part of the storm, we’re having hurricanes gusts, continued winds from anywhere from 30 to 50 mph on the west end,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy told WCBS-TV. “It’s still a very dangerous situation.”
Despite the warnings, many vacationers weren't going to let the storm ruin their Labor Day Weekend plans.
"We're kind of excited, we're going to have a hurricane party," said Lisa Rawn, 49, who was heading out to Quogue in the Hamptons, on Friday.
Ahead of the traditionally big travel weekend, several major airlines, including Delta, Continental, JetBlue and United, were waiving fees for changing tickets for travelers heading into or out of LaGuardia, JFK or Newark, as all three airports would likely see delays and cancellations due to the storm, according to reports.
"Storm conditions are expected to make air travel difficult on the United States East Coast, forcing some delays and cancellations of flights at airports in the region," Continental said in a press release.
Con Edison was already on alert ahead of the storm. The utility asked customers to watch for and report power outages caused by the storm's heavy winds and rain and to stay away from downed power lines.
ConEd also suggested New Yorkers check their flashlights and battery supplies before the storm swipes the area on Friday.
The Office of Emergency Management urged New Yorkers to prepare for potentially windy conditions by bringing lightweight objects like lawn furniture, garbage cans and toys inside.
North Carolina evacuated its Outer Banks as waves reached between 14 and 18 feet by Friday morning and announced a state of emergency, along with Virginia and Maryland, MSNBC reported.
Sea levels were already starting to rise along the Delaware and New Jersey coastline, according to AccuWeather.
A major hurricane has not hit the Big Apple directly in 117 years, but a few have come close.
Hurricane Gloria blasted Long Island and Connecticut in 1985 with winds of more than 95 miles per hour and left an estimated 680,000 without power. In 1991, Hurricane Bob did $1.5 billion in damage when the eye of the storm passed about 65 miles east of Montauk.