NC's Outer Banks watching Sandy off the coast
NAGS HEAD, N.C. (AP) — Movie theaters, fast-food restaurants, and grocery and big-box stores opened Sunday on North Carolina's Outer Banks even as distant Hurricane Sandy lashed the coast with high winds and tides and continued to threaten the barrier islands.
Sandy was at Category 1 hurricane, packing 75 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. As of 11 EDT Sunday, it was located 290 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C.
The state Department of Transportation said it closed the Herbert Bonner Bridge that carries N.C. Highway 12 over the Oregon Inlet because "inspectors determined that the bridge was unsafe for traffic," according to a prepared statement. The problem involved a loose section of the bridge's railing that conditions did not allow to be thoroughly checked, spokeswoman Amanda Perry said.
Further north, long sections of the barrier island beach road connecting Nags Head and Duck were covered in rain, sea water and sand. At the southern end of the Outer Banks, several homes and businesses on Ocracoke Island, accessible only by boat, were threatened by a flood of more than two feet, DOT officials said.
About five inches of rain fell at Hatteras Village during a 24-hour period ending at 2 p.m. Sunday, the National Weather Service reported. On the oceanfront, the state Department of Transportation reported sustained winds of 50 mph. The greatest impacts from the ocean were expected with high tide after sunrise Monday.
Winds shifting from the east to the northwest later Sunday could cause sound-front flooding of 3 to 5 feet. Winds of 30 mph or more were expected until Tuesday.
North Carolina officials said a state of emergency has been declared for 38 counties from the Interstate 95 corridor to the coast, while a flood watch covers counties east of Highway 17.
Meanwhile, forecasters have issued a winter storm advisory for heavy snow in the northeastern region of the Appalachian Mountains. It extends from Monday morning to 6 a.m. Wednesday. Snow accumulations of 4 to 8 inches are expected, with 8 to 12 inches predicted at higher elevations, state officials said.
On the Outer Banks, officials in the three counties did not call for evacuations, but urged motorists to stay off the roads during the storm, especially beach roads known to flood or to be covered by sand. Power companies reported scattered power outages.
State emergency management officials had not received reports of injuries or serious problems by Sunday afternoon, said Doug Hoell, the state's emergency management director.
"So far, we've been fortunate as we have not had reports of severe damage from Hurricane Sandy," he said. "But this is still a slow-moving, powerful storm that could impact North Carolina well into next week."
The major concerns were rising tides and pounding waves on the ocean side, where many beachfront properties remained vulnerable, and also on the backside of the islands where authorities feared the hurricane's winds could drive up water from the normally tranquil Pamlico Sound. Some areas of southern Hatteras Island were swamped by several inches of water and sand Sunday. Hurricane Irene last year caused 6 feet or more of water to rise from the sound into homes and sliced the only road to the mainland from the low-lying, 70-mile-long island.
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