Big surf, high winds close N.C. 12 on Hatteras

By on October 28, 2012

Waves were churning under Nags Head Fishing Pier and into the dunes Sunday morning. (Rob Morris)

Although the center of Hurricane Sandy was more than 200 miles away from Cape Hatteras Sunday, wind gusts of 50 mph or more were being recorded along the Outer Banks.

N.C. 12, the only route to Hatteras Island, was closed at Oregon Inlet as high surf punched through dunes and dumped sand and ocean overwash on the highway, Dare County Emergency Management reported.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, the storm was still rated a hurricane with 75 mph top sustained winds and moving northeast at 10 mph. It was 270 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras.

Stormy conditions have already reached northeastern North Carolina because of the size of the storm. Tropical storm force winds extend 520 miles from its center, the National Hurricane Center said.

Weather conditions went downhill along the Outer Banks overnight as the storm approached from the south. Heavier rain, however, was funneling along a path just east of I-95 near Rocky Mount and Greenville early Sunday.

Sandy Sunday morning. (NOAA)

At 5:12 a.m., the Duck pier recorded a wind gust of 47 knots, which is about 54 mph. The top gust in Manteo was 53 mph at 4:35 a.m. and sustained winds were running between 32 and 38 mph just before daybreak. Tropical storm force is 39 mph or more.

A buoy off Oregon Inlet recorded wave heights of 22.6 feet at 6:20 a.m.

As wind and waves sprayed plumes of water along Nags Head Fishing Pier and into the dunes, a few hearty people were having breakfast and discussing the weather. Cable was out at the pier, and power was lost in some areas.

The Island Free Press reported extensive flooding from the ocean and sound on Ocracoke and Hatteras islands: Hatteras and Ocracoke slammed with water »

N.C. 12 flooding on Hatteras Island. (North Carolina Department of Transportation)

Sandy is forecast to pass about 150 miles offshore late Sunday and early Monday.

Late Saturday, Dare County Emergency Management urged residents and visitors to finish preparing by securing outdoor items such as deck furniture and parking cars and trucks on high ground.

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“Hurricane Sandy continues to track well offshore, however the storm is expected to produce long periods of 35-55 mph sustained winds with gusts of 50 to 70 mph,” emergency management said in a statement.

“Storm winds could damage buildings, cause isolated power outages, down trees and result in water and sand accumulation on roadways.”

The Carolina coast up to Duck is under a tropical storm warning. Ferry service from Hatteras to Ocracoke has been suspended. The state Department of Transportation has positioned more equipment on Hatteras Island to try to keep N.C. 12 clear.

As Sandy interacts with two weather systems, it is expected to deliver up to 7 inches of rain along the coast over the next few days before hooking onshore somewhere between Norfolk and New England.

On Friday, Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency for 38 counties, including Dare, Hyde and Currituck. Her executive order allows the state to seek federal help.

Tropical storm warning in blue. (National Hurricane Center)

“Interests are reminded not to focus on the exact track of this system since significant impacts will extend well away from the location of the center,” the hurricane center said.

Later Sunday, winds will shift to the west-southwest, creating the threat of sound-side flooding of as much as 3 to 5 feet, the emergency management statement said.

The National Weather Service office in Morehead City said breaking waves would be 8 to 12 feet, with the highest on Sunday.

See a video of the storm from space »

Click to see a complete analysis of local impacts. (National Weather Service)



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