Maria, again a hur­ri­cane, swirls over Carolina beaches

Ripon Bulletin - - Nation -

WAVES, N.C. (AP) — Maria re­gained strength and be­came a hur­ri­cane again Wed­nes­day, push­ing wa­ter over both sides of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and tak­ing its time to slowly turn away from the U.S. At­lantic coast.

No in­juries have been re­ported, but the surge of ocean wa­ter washed over eroded beaches, flood­ing prop­er­ties and state High­way 12, the only road through the nar­row bar­rier is­lands of Hat­teras and Ocra­coke.

No fer­ries were moving, cut­ting off ac­cess to Ocra­coke, and with parts of the high­way flooded even at low tide, any travel on Hat­teras re­mains haz­ardous, Dare County Emer­gency Man­age­ment Di­rec­tor Drew Pear­son said in an email. He said the worst prob­lems were on Hat­teras Is­land, where more than 10,000 vis­i­tors left un­der an evac­u­a­tion or­der, but hun­dreds of lo­cal res­i­dents were al­lowed to stay.

The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said an Air Force Re­serve re­con­nais­sance air­craft mea­sured Maria’s top sus­tained winds at near 75 mph (120 kmh), with higher gusts. Its cen­ter was about 180 miles (290 kilo­me­ters) off Cape Hat­teras at 2 p.m. Wed­nes­day.

While Maria’s most pun­ish­ing hur­ri­cane-force winds re­mained off­shore, trop­i­cal storm-force winds ex­tended for as much as 230 miles (370 kilo­me­ters) from the cen­ter, churn­ing up the surf on both sides of the is­lands. The hur­ri­cane’s for­ward speed is just 6 mph (9 kph), so the storm was lin­ger­ing be­fore swing­ing out to sea.

On Hat­teras, a fine rain fell Wed­nes­day, with patches of blue sky oc­ca­sion­ally show­ing through. Po­lice set up a check point to block all traf­fic ex­cept for res­i­dents and reporters. As the winds picked up, waves crashed up to and be­yond ocean-front homes be­tween the com­mu­ni­ties of Ro­dan­the and Avon, where the wa­ter has washed un­der wa­ter­front homes and onto side streets since Tues­day at high tide.

“Mother Na­ture keeps chop­ping at it,” said Tony Meekins, 55, a life­long res­i­dent of Avon who works as an en­gi­neer on the tem­po­rar­ily halted Hat­teras Ocra­coke ferry. “We see storm after storm.”

Stand­ing near Avon’s closed fish­ing pier, Meekins pointed to where the dune line is gone, pounded down by pre­vi­ous storms. At low tide, a layer of wet sand cov­ered the road.

Chip Stevens owns Black­beard’s Lodge, a 38-unit ho­tel on Ocra­coke. He hopes the high­way re­mains pass­able on both is­lands to en­able the peo­ple and sup­plies that ar­rive by ferry to move up and down the is­land.

This weather is only the lat­est trop­i­cal blow to the Outer Banks, among the most frag­ile is­lands in the con­ti­nen­tal United States. Of­fi­cials warned that the surge of ocean wa­ter and waves would over­whelm sand dunes from both the ocean and from Pam­lico Sound, which sep­a­rates the is­lands from the main­land. Bull­doz­ers were in place to push the sand off High­way 12 when wa­ter sub­sides.

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