Hurricane Arthur: North Carolina beaches open as storm passes coast
Tropical storm watches in effect for N.S., P.E.I., and N.B.
Proving far less damaging than feared, Hurricane Arthur left tens of thousands of people without power Friday in a swipe at North Carolina's dangerously exposed Outer Banks, then brought lousy Fourth of July beach weather to the Northeast as it veered out to sea.
The weather along the narrow barrier islands — whose beaches draw hundreds of thousands of tourists every summer — had already cleared by Friday afternoon as Arthur scooted north and its outer bands scraped the Delaware and New Jersey shores. Forecasters did predict a second landfall Saturday evening in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada.
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While state and local officials worked to restore access to Hatteras Island and help those who had suffered storm and flooding damage, the effects of the hurricane were mostly confined to that part of the state. Farther south, the beaches were once again packed with people soaking up the sun.
"The North Carolina beaches are open for business and they're open for tourists," Gov. Pat McCrory said. "The umbrellas are going up as we speak right now."
Arthur struck North Carolina as a Category 2 storm with winds of 160 km/h late Thursday, taking about five hours to move across the far eastern part of the state.
Dodged a bullet in North Carolina
At the height of the storm, more than 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, McCrory said 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.
By 11 a.m. Friday, Arthur had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 144 km/h, and additional weakening is expected, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. The center was about 160 kilometres 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.
Still need to heed warnings
"There's a lot of damage to a lot of houses around here," Wray said. "Everything flooded out. All the businesses are flooded, and there was a lot of wind damage."
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."
The Canadian Hurricane Centre has upgraded tropical storm watches to warnings for Nova Scotia, all of Prince Edward Island and most of central and southern New Brunswick.
We can't expect storm drains to keep up with that rate.- eople to pay attention," said Chris Fogarty, Canadian Hurricane Centre
"We want people to pay attention," said Chris Fogarty, the manager of the Halifax-based centre. "There are going to be some impacts from this (storm)."
Fogarty said Friday that Arthur will hit southwestern Nova Scotia and track across the province towards the southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence by Saturday evening.
Wind warnings have been issued for parts of southwestern Nova Scotia, where forecasters are predicting winds will gust up to 90 km/h.
Fogarty said New Brunswick is expected to get the most rain, with up to 150 millimetres expected in some areas over a 12-hour period and it will come down in heavy sheets.
"There could be up to 20 millimetre per hour rainfall rates, which is an issue," he said. "We can't expect storm drains to keep up with that rate."
Fogarty said storm surges and waves are a possibility along most of the coastlines of Nova Scotia, eastern New Brunswick and around Prince Edward Island.
"There could be some inundation around coastal areas and some beach erosion," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press