By Rob Morris on August 24, 2011
Hurricane Irene was almost due west of Cape Hatteras at 10 a.m. today, and high winds pushing water west had exposed the bottom of the Pamlico Sound.
Island Free Press Editor Irene Nolan said there were reports of breached dunes, water on N.C. 12 near Frisco and downed trees. But so far, the storm did not seem as severe as originally forecast.
“I will say it’s ugly,” Nolan said from her home in Brigands Bay near Buxton.
A bigger concern is when the storm passes, the wind shifts to the west and the Pamlico sound rushes back to the west side of the island.
Islanders prepared by parking vehicles and cars on familiar high spots in parking lots and roads.
“Every little hill along the road, you see cars parked on,” Nolan said.
The storm crossed the North Carolina coast this morning near Cape Lookout with 90 mph top winds and has been buffeting the Outer Banks with wind and rain since last night.
Dare County officials are urging sightseers to stay inside. Duck and Kill Devil Hills have imposed curfews to keep people off the streets.
Northeastern North Carolina is under a hurricane warning. Residents and visitors were told to evacuate Dare, Currituck and Hyde counties.
But many residents elected to stay as the storm began to look a little more ragged than it did earlier, the track had shifted slightly west and the winds appeared to be holding steady at 90 mph or less.
At one time, Irene was forecast to make a direct hit on the Outer Banks as a Category 3 major hurricane.
Still, heavy rain and storm surge will be a problem. Tornadoes are also possible.
The storm is moving north-northeast.
Sarah Alford of Moyock and her 5-year old daugther Emmie, who was to start kindergarten yesterday, instead spent Thursday night driving to Rocky Mount before heading to a hotel in uptown Charlotte for the duration of Irene.
Alford’s husband, Tom, is staying at their home off Tulls Creek Road.
“We decided to play it safe . . . when the western core of the storm was forecast to pass over northern Currituck, we decided it was time to go,” Alford said.
“Emmie is most important thing at our house and don’t want to take any chances with her.”Along the beach, businesses were boarding up Friday. Hardware stores were open and doing a brisk business. Banks, some drug stores and all grocery stores except the Food-O-Rama in Manteo were closed, so people stocking up on last minute items had to settle for convenience or drug stores, which remained open.
New battery supplies were expected at The Home Depot Friday. D batteries are the rarest, and bottled water was disappearing from stores still open.
Rainfall east of U.S. 17 is expected to total 8 to 12 inches and possibly more in some areas, according to the forecast. Tropical storm force winds should arrive Friday evening.
Winds greater than 80 mph are likely east of U.S. 17 Saturday afternoon, the forecast said. Storm surge of 6 to 11 feet is also expected.Schools are closed.
North Carolina transportation officials say they are prepared for any damage to N.C. 12 on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands as well as the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet.
DOT spokeswoman Nicole Meister said Wednesday that workers were positioning heavy equipment on Hatteras Island to keep the road open as long as it is safe for crews to work. Immediately after the storm, workers will inspect the aging Bonner Bridge. Meister says the bridge will not be opened unless engineers are sure it is safe.
Ferries will be standing by to handle vehicle traffic if the road remains closed following the hurricane, using the emergency route over Pamlico Sound between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point.
The Chesapeake Expressway lifted northbound tolls to support the evacuation.The Coast Guard is conducting warning flights over the coastal waters ahead of Hurricane Irene, telling mariners by radio to seek safe harbor. An HC-130 aircraft from Station Elizabeth City is making the flights, broadcasting an emergency message on several marine VHF frequencies.
Makeup days for Dare County schools will be Sept.10, and Wednesday, Nov. 23. Both will be half days. All after-school activities are cancelled Thursday and Friday, including the After-School Enrichment Program.
Irene, which started as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, is the ninth named storm of the season and the first Atlantic hurricane of 2011.
Cameras on the International Space station capture Hurricane Irene. (Nasa video)
Sam Walker and Russ Lay contributed to this report