North Carolina Coast Survives Hurricane Arthur
Hurricane Arthur left behind power outages and a barrier island again cut off from the mainland in North Carolina as it hustled out to sea after hitting an area accustomed to storms.
The weather in North Carolina's Outer Banks was already clearing Friday morning as Arthur's outer bands scraped the Delaware and New Jersey beaches. The storm was expected to bring a lousy July Fourth beach day with it as it moved offshore of the northeast coast. Forecasters did predict a second landfall Saturday evening in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada.
Arthur struck North Carolina as a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph late Thursday, taking about five hours to move across the far eastern part of the state.
About 40,000 people lost power, and the rush of water from the ocean on one side and the sound on the other side buckled part of North Carolina Highway 12 in a spot on Hatteras Island that was breached in Hurricane Irene in 2011. Dozens of workers were heading to fix the highway, and the Department of Transportation said it was confident the road would reopen Saturday as long as an underwater sonar test of a key bridge showed no problems.
No injuries or deaths were reported. After praising emergency officials and saying the state dodged a bullet, Gov. McCrory noted that all of North Carolina's beaches were open outside of the Outer Banks and encouraged residents and visitors to enjoy the holiday. He was heading to the beach himself for an Independence Day parade in Southport, a welcome surprise when he expected to be stuck in Raleigh monitoring the storm all day.
"The North Carolina beaches are open for business and they're open for tourists," McCrory said. "The umbrellas are going up as we speak right now."
By 11 a.m. Friday, Arthur had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 90 mph, and additional weakening is expected, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The center was about 100 miles east-southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, and the storm was moving northeast near 24 mph.
While the Northeast wasn't expected to take a direct hit, the rain from Arthur's outer bands was disrupting the holiday. Fireworks displays in New Jersey and Maine were postponed until later in the weekend. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for coastal areas as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Tropical storm watches and warnings were in effect for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in southeastern Canada.
Still, the first hurricane known to strike the U.S. on July 4 caused some frayed nerves on North Carolina's Outer Banks - a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents and around 250,000 visitors on most summer weekends. A mandatory evacuation was issued for the southern Outer Banks. But while most visitors left, many residents stayed, accustomed to hurricanes that strike the area on average about every four or five years.
Jesse and Carol Wray rode out the storm in their home in Salvo on North Carolina Highway 12. They said the island was under several feet of water at the height of the storm. The six-foot-tall lamppost at the end of their driveway was under water except for its top, and that was after the sound a quarter-mile away receded several feet since first light, said Jesse Wray, a retired Norfolk, Virginia, firefighter.
"I'm surprised that it got this bad. There's all kind of debris floating around here. I know a lot of people who lost their houses around here" if they were built on the ground instead of elevated, said Wray, whose home is on pilings 9 feet high which kept it dry.
Arthur is the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. It is the earliest in the season a hurricane has made landfall in North Carolina.
McCrory said people who are still waiting on Arthur need to heed warnings, even if North Carolina came through better than expected.
"I encourage them to take this very seriously as we did and hope for the best results," the North Carolina governor said. "We've always felt that it was better to overreact than underreact, gladly this storm was more underwhelming than anticipated, which was very good news.
About 21,000 were without power across the Carolinas early Friday, according to Duke Energy's website.
After passing over North Carolina early Friday, Hurricane Arthur was expected to weaken as it traveled northward and dump rain along the East Coast.
Early Friday morning, Arthur was located about 25 miles south-southwest of Manteo, North Carolina and some 35 miles northwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was moving northeast at 22 mph.
Arthur, the first named storm of the Atlantic season, prompted a hurricane warning from the southern North Carolina coast to the Virginia border. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for coastal areas as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Commanders at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, about 150 miles from the coast, sent four KC-135R Stratotankers and more than 50 F-15E Strike Eagles to another base near Dayton, Ohio, to avoid the risk of damage from high winds.
Arthur is the earliest hurricane to hit North Carolina since record keeping began in 1851. The previous record held more than 100 years, being set on July 11, 1901, notes CBS Charlotte affiliate WBTV.
It's also hurricane to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, the Reuters news agency points out.
The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and fireworks show were held Thursday night because of potential heavy rain from Arthur, while fireworks displays in New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire were postponed until later in the weekend.
CBS Raleigh, N.C. affiliate WRAL-TV reports that, "Despite a series of tornado warnings across the eastern third of the state throughout Thursday evening, no serious storm damage was reported before daybreak Friday. A tornado touched down in Duplin County, damaging three homes."
Among the tourists leaving Hatteras Island were 27-year-old Nichole Specht and 28-year-old Ryan Witman of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The couple started driving at 3:30 a.m. Thursday on North Carolina Highway 12, the only road on and off Hatteras.
"We were just saying we were really, really lucky this year that the weather was so great, and then this," Specht said as she ended a two-week vacation.
Many island residents, meanwhile, decided to ride out the powerful storm rather than risk losing access to homes connected to the mainland by a highway prone to washouts.
"All the people that I know who live here are staying put," said Mike Rabe, who planned to stay in his Rodanthe home despite an evacuation order for surrounding Hatteras Island.