Published: 2014-07-04 10:42:00
Updated: 2014-07-04 21:01:55
Posted July 4, 2014
Morehead City, N.C. — What began as a swirling front off the coast of Florida last week developed into a Category 2 hurricane that roared ashore the North Carolina coast late Thursday, packing 100 mph winds and fouling Fourth of July plans for thousands of beach-bound vacationers.
Hurricane Arthur made landfall at 11:15 p.m. in Shackleford Banks, between Cape Lookout and Beaufort. The highest wind gust was 101 mph, recorded at a nearby buoy.
The fast-moving storm churned quickly northward, with the eye moving offshore by 4:30 a.m. Friday. Despite Arthur’s menacing winds and storm surge, the state survived with no loss of life, major injuries or extensive damage.
Bonner Bridge and N.C. Highway 12 – the fragile road connecting the barrier islands that make up the Outer Banks – were the hardest hit. The roadway in Hatteras Island was closed Friday morning because of sand and over-wash. Crews were assessing the damage and hoped to begin repairs Friday on a section of pavement that buckled near a temporary bridge on Pea Island. It was unclear when conditions would be safe enough for divers to inspect the supports for the Bonner Bridge.
About 83,400 Duke Energy customers were without power at some point during the storm. That number was down to 6,000 by noon Friday. The biggest outage was in Carteret County, where about about 16,500 Duke Energy customers were without power before dawn.
Elsewhere along the coast, there was minor flooding, some beach erosion and scattered debris. The state’s National Guard was on standby, and authorities had boats at the ready to perform rescues, but neither was needed.
“I am very proud of the North Carolina safety team,” Gov. Pat McCrory said during a news conference Friday to wrap up the weather event. “We are glad the public took our warnings, and because of that, we were able to minimize the impact of Hurricane Arthur.”
The storm weakened to a Category 1 by 9 a.m. Friday as winds diminished to 90 mph and it headed toward New England. It is expected to become a post-tropical cyclone by Friday night or Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
With the threat over, McCrory urged residents and visitors to celebrate the Fourth of July, but do so with caution. Rip currents will remain a danger for several days.
“North Carolina beaches are open for business,” he declared. “The umbrellas are going up as we speak.”
WRAL meteorologist Aimee Wilmoth said the storm's effects were surprisingly mild considering its strength. Arthur dumped a record-setting 3.75 inches of rain in Wilmington, which is along the state's southern coast.
"The bigger issue along the Outer Banks was the sound side, where we had a 4.65-foot storm surge in Oregon Inlet," Wilmoth said.
Storm surge was responsible for minor flooding Manteo and Nags Head. But surge waters typically recede fast.
"Conditions are going to improve really quickly," Wilmoth said.
The storm spawned numerous tornado warnings Thursday night across the coast and as far inland as Halifax, Edgecombe and Wilson counties. The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down at 8:50 p.m. in Rose Hill in Duplin County.
There were no injuries reported from the tornado, which was on the ground for about a quarter-mile.
While residents and visitors flocked to the beaches Friday afternoon, Tom Garry found himself with plenty of cleaning up to do at his home in Pine Knoll Shore.
"We had planned a party for the fourth. Now, it's been shuffled off until tomorrow, so I'm trying to get this place back into shape," he said, raking leaves.
A transformer blew during the storm, knocking out power to his street. Still, Pine Knoll Shore Mayor Kendall Jones said things turned out better than he expected.
"We didn't have the wind we thought we would, and we really didn't have the rain we thought we would," he said.