"We will be piling up as much sand as possible along the beachfront," said Frank Ricciotti, Margate, New Jersey, public works director. "I think the water damage is worse than another type of damage, and the hardest thing is to stop water, once it starts coming up."
Farther south, in the Norfolk, Virginia, area, more than two dozen ships were being sent to sea for their own protection.
Strong winds whipped Florida, where CNN iReporter Simon Davis shot video of an overcast Melbourne Beach.
"I was surprised at just how intense it was for a storm so far off the coast. I was thinking, wow and this is going north? Scary," he wrote.
Miami International Airport on Friday canceled more than 20 flights to or from Jamaica or Bahamas, CNN affiliate WSVN reported. Nearby Fort Lauderdale airport canceled 13 flights to the islands.