Local News

Rare Snow Hits Outer Banks, Rest Of Coast

Posted January 23, 2003

— North Carolinians lost their last refuge from winter weather Thursday as more than 9 inches of snow fell along the Outer Banks in the first major coastal snowfall in 13 years.

"Not a day fit to be out there on the water, that's for sure," said Bob Eakes, owner of a tackle shop in Buxton on Hatteras Island. "It's real pretty, if you could see it."

Eakes, who caught up on book work as he waited for customers, got one inquiry about winter boots. Gusting winds blew the snow relentlessly, he said, forcing him to regularly shovel the space at his front door to keep it clear.

The storm dumped snow on much of the state for the second time in a week, but the coast got its first major snowfall since 1989. The bulk of the coastal snow fell from the Morehead City area northward to the Outer Banks, a region more accustomed to nor'easters and hurricanes.

A winter storm warning was in effect for coastal counties.

"I woke up at 7 (a.m.) and it was all over the place," said Bob Touhey of Ocracoke Island. "It's probably blowing sustained 20 to 25 mphand gusting into the 30s and it's like (a) white-out."

Touhey said Thursday morning he couldn't see across the street at his inn, which was empty, and that winds were blowing snow into drifts of 1 foot or more.

The National Weather Service said the deepest snow at noon was 9 inches at Ocracoke and Buxton, 8 inches at Manteo and 7 inches at Morehead City. The depths tapered off to 5 inches at New Bern, 4 at Jacksonville and 3 inches at Kinston. Between 2 and 4 inches fell in the Wilmington area.

Meteorologist Gil Wagi at the Newport office of the weather service said inland areas received less snow than the Outer Banks and central coast.

"The closer to the ocean, the more snow you get," Wagi said, adding that snowfall was expected to taper off in the midafternoon.

Usually such systems bring blowing rain to the coast and snow farther inland, he said, but the cold weather close to the beaches made the difference.

In Dare County, emergency officials were thankful they didn't get an ice storm.

"It's just cold, miserable," said Sandy Sanderson, the county emergency services director. "We've got winds of 20 to 25 mph, so the wind chill is down to single digits if not below zero."

Most people were hunkered inside their homes and not out joyriding, so the county's limited road clearing effort wasn't hampered, Sanderson said.

A snow like this was a rarity, something he'd seen only four or five times during his 30 years in the county, Sanderson added.

Dare County doesn't own snow plows, so the state Transportation Department promised to provide some equipment, county spokeswoman Dorothy Toolan said.

Winds and snow also forced the closure of state ferries along the coast. Schools and colleges were closed in the region, as were many businesses and most government offices.

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