Shifting winds helped keep coastal flooding below National Weather Service predictions early Thursday, but the same potent storm that is slowly moving off New England is expected to drive the water up again early today, possibly to a level that covers many low-lying roads.

A coastal flood warning is in effect until 9 a.m. for the potential of moderate level tidal flooding. Moderate flooding occurs when the water mark at the tidal gauge in Atlantic City reaches at least 7 feet above the average low tide.

Forecasters say minor tidal flooding could persist into Saturday, with strong waves continuing to eat away at already narrowed beaches along the entire New Jersey shore.

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“We’ll have to keep an eye on things and evaluate,” said Gary Szatkowski, meteorologist in charge, at the National Weather Service in Mount Holly. “I’d be kind of surprised if we don’t get to minor (flooding) on Saturday.”

High tide occurs along the oceanfront at about 4:30 a.m. today and as long as two hours later in the back bays. Szatkowski warned that continued winds blowing off the ocean may trap water in the back bays, causing a more significant level of flooding than along the oceanfront.

Thursday morning’s flooding in Atlantic and Cape May counties was about a foot lower than the major flooding level that weather service forecasters predicted. While the width of many area beaches was further narrowed by the strong waves and high water, dunes remained almost completely intact with no major washovers in South Jersey.

Minor property damage still was evident as residents cleaned up from the high water and strong winds.

For instance, a few months after the first floor of his cafe on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City flooded from Hurricane Sandy, Yianni Siganos saw part of his building’s roofing blow off in the wind Wednesday evening, opening the second floor apartments to rain and smashing a window in adjacent City Hall.

“With Sandy we had to fix the first floor, and now with this storm we have to fix the second floor,” he said. “So now we have to fix everything.”

Nevertheless, Siganos said, Yianni’s Cafe would reopen at 6 a.m. today after he and contractors repair the damage.

Crews continued to move sand around the north end of Ocean City as part of an ongoing beach replenishment project, which did not show any obvious setbacks. The project’s dredge was anchored in Great Egg Harbor Inlet to avoid high seas that will persist through today.

Sea Isle City saw floodwaters blocking part of Ocean Drive and Central Avenue in the center of the island. At least one car was swallowed by deep water Wednesday night on 39th Street, and it still sat there Thursday afternoon with water at the bottom of its doors.

The most noticeable damage in the southern end of Cape May County was on Stone Harbor Boulevard in Middle Township, where a row of wooden utility poles buckled or snapped after 60 mph wind gusts Wednesday. The road was still closed to traffic Thursday. Atlantic City Electric said repairs should be complete by this afternoon.

Atlantic City Office of Emergency Management director Tom Foley said Thursday that hundreds of houses suffered some type of flood damage. But Atlantic City acting Code Enforcement Director Rick Russo said he had not heard of, or seen, that level of damage. The only damage reported to the city was from the high winds that ripped away siding or roof shingles that either had been weakened from Sandy or were under construction, Russo said.

Workers at Revel megaresort Thursday morning shoveled wind-swept sand off the Boardwalk in front of the resort. Numerous tiles flew off the roof at Garden Pier, smashing onto the deck. But inside the Atlantic City Historical Society museum there was no water damage, said Maureen Frank, director of the Atlantic City Library. “Thank goodness. We’re hoping to reopen soon.”

The water in parts of Ventnor Heights came up in some places more than one foot deep and debris from the flooding littered the streets. Dunes on the beach had no obvious damage, though there was a small amount of beach erosion near the Ventnor Fishing Pier.

Municipal emergency management officials in Cumberland County said the county’s small Delaware Bay communities were spared the flooding that destroyed homes and damaged protective bulkheads and dikes during Hurricane Sandy and other recent storms.

“It wasn’t as bad as they said it was going to be,” said Downe Township Emergency Management Coordinator James Lupton.

Staff writers Lee Procida, Trudi Gilfillian, Tom Barlas and Anjalee Khemlani contributed to this report.

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Follow Sarah Watson on Twitter @acpresssarah

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