Arthur races through OBX; northern beaches reopen

By on July 3, 2014

dawn

Dawn in Kill Devil Hills. (NCDOT)

At 4:06 a.m., weather conditions reported on the Town of Nags Head website: Average wind, ENE, 0.0 mph.

Hurricane Arthur’s eye was overhead.

By 6:50 a.m. the northern beaches of Dare County were open for business.

After growing into a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph top winds over 10 days, Arthur blew through the Outer Banks just before dawn and was racing offshore by sunrise.

Flooding was reported in Manteo, and access to Hatteras Island is still closed. But it looks like the Outer Banks will salvage a good part of the July 4 weekend.

At the Duck research pier, the 5:48 a.m. wind speed was 51 mph with a peak gust of 58 mph.

The first tropical system of the season initially hit land at Cape Lookout late Thursday, where a peak gust of 101 mph was recorded at 10:14 p.m and continuous winds were 77 mph.

Computer models had shown that the storm would head out to sea around Oregon Inlet on a route putting more pressure on the sound side of Hatteras Island, where previous storms have blown out new inlets.

Reports of flooding on the island are coming in. Surf and surge has has flattened dunes, and water and sand cover N.C. 12 in some areas. But nothing as serious as new breaches or inlets.

Once the center passes, conditions should quickly improve. At Cape Lookout, winds had died down to 33 mph within 45 minutes.

Continuous winds recorded at the Hatteras Coast Guard station at the peak of the storm there were 69 mph at 1:36 a.m. today. The highest gust was 78 mph.

The National Hurricane Center reported that the storm was heading northeast at 23 mph, with the center about 65 miles off of Kitty Hawk.

Access into Dare County this morning was restricted until officials could determine if conditions are safe for travel. Access to Hatteras Island is closed until further notice.

The hurricane had picked up more energy Thursday morning, generating 90 mph top winds as an evacuation of Hatteras Island got under way.

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Hurricane Arthur this morning. (NOAA/NASA)

Storm surge was expected to be in the range of 3 to 5 feet. Periods of heavy rain are probable with totals reaching 3 to 5 inches, the National Weather Service said.

Dare, Currituck and Hyde County officials declared states of emergency Wednesday, and a voluntary evacuation for Ocracoke Island took effect at 2 p.m.

Dare County urged residents and tourists to leave the island under a mandatory evacuation because of uncertainty about access on the only route in and out — N.C. 12, which is prone to overwash, sand accumulation and sometimes breaches.

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NC12 at Mirlo Beach on Hatteras Island. (NCDOT)

The N.C. Ferry Division has started 24-hour ferry service and is waiving tolls on the Cedar Island run to help those deciding to leave. Once winds reach 30 to 35 mph, ferries can no longer safely operate. Th Ferry Division said the Cedar Island Run shut down at 4 p.m. and the Ocracoke-Hatteras at 5 p.m. today.

Arthur is a fairly tight storm with hurricane-force winds extending up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm winds, up to 150 miles.

Under any scenario, the surf will be treacherous. The National Weather Service in Morehead City forecasts wave heights of more than 12 feet.

The prospect of high surf raised questions about how well N.C. 12 would hold up. The most recent tropical systems — Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Hurricane Irene in 2011 — shut down the highway. Irene cut a new inlet in Pea Island and a temporary breach just north of Rodanthe.

This is traditionally the busiest week of the summer, and the fragile two-lane highway is the only land route off the island for thousands of visitors.

“Our concern has been from day one is the road in and out,” said Dare County Commissioner Allen Burrus, who owns a grocery store in Hatteras village.

Burrus said that Hatteras Island residents are used to dealing with 100-plus mph winds, but it is always the uncertainty of the track, impact and speed beforehand that raise anxiety. Arthur is no different.

“Irene taught us a lesson that a 90 mile-an-hour storm can do almost as much or maybe more damage and certainly over a lot bigger area than one that is blowing 125 mph and going through in just an hour or two,” he said.

Many visitors appeared to have heeded that evacuation order, Burrus said, but residents for the most part were staying put. As always, he said the concern is finding a place to stay and paying for it and the uncertainty of getting back quickly.

July 4 events have been postponed along the Outer Banks. Check with the Voice and Beach 104 for continuous updates closings, cancellations and postponements.

A Category 1 hurricane generates maximum sustained winds of 74-95 mph. If winds that high occur on land, shingles, siding, canopies and signs can be blown off of houses and buildings.

Wind in the neighborhood of 50 mph will blow furniture around decks and strip trees of smaller limbs.

Russ Lay contributed to this story



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