Coastal residents, visitors soak up sun, brace for storm

Posted July 31, 2020 1:20 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2020 6:16 p.m. EDT

— Along the North Carolina coast, Friday was a typical July day with plenty of sun and crowds on the beach escaping the worries about the coronavirus pandemic. Miles offshore and days away, another threat to that vacation feeling looms, though.

Hurricane Isaias is forecast to sweep up the East Coast, beginning in Florida Saturday, creating rough surf, high winds and the possibility of heavy downpours in the Carolinas as the new week begins. Forecast models don't agree on whether the impact to North Carolina will be a glancing blow or an inland soaker.

With the storm on the way, Ocracoke Island closed Friday to visitors. A mandatory evacuation order takes effect Saturday at 6 a.m.

In Wrightsville Beach, it seemed like business as usual Friday.

“We are running an almost 90% occupancy for the month of July. It’s turned out to be a very good month," said Steve Varieur, general manager of the Holiday Inn.

Still, with Hurricane Isaias approaching, he's keeping an eye on the forecast. “We check it pretty much every hour," he said.

So far, Varieur's hotel has seen 15 cancelations, and his staff is preparing to ride it out with those who opt to stay.

“All of the furniture on the exterior, all of our plants and everything have to come inside," he said.

In the home rental business, Robert Huckabee, vice president of Sea Scape Properties, was reaching out to visitors as well.

"What we generally do when there are guests here is send them an email of what precautions they need to take," he said. "I know that we're doing everything we can to keep them safe and informed so that they still have a good trip. Generally, storms only last a day or two, so they can still enjoy their trip a few days after."

Jeff and Alisa Groves, visiting from Texas, had the same idea.

"We’ll just roll with the punches," he said. "We actually flew into Raleigh and drove down, so depending upon where that storm goes, we may drive back to Raleigh and stay there for a couple of days instead of spending all of our time at the beach.”

Hardware stores and groceries were especially busy Friday afternoon, with a run on the typical storm staples – bottled water, toilet paper, batteries and propane.

Locals like Bob Seeling know the drill.

"We have two tubs that are filled with toilet paper and necessary things – flashlights and some canned foods, tuna fish and all of that," he said.

Through the weekend, Isaias will be felt in the Carolinas in the form of a rip current threat.

There is a high threat for rip currents along the North Carolina coast from Wilmington to Ocracoke Island starting Friday. A moderate rip current threat will be in effect north of Ocracoke Island and south of Wilmington.

This weekend, the coast could experience a few afternoon storms. By Monday, tropical storm or hurricane conditions are more likely. Periods of heavy rain and weak tornadoes will be possible along the coast as Isaias rain bands move in.

The Triangle will mostly see scattered thunderstorms and periods of heavy rain. If Isaias tracks more to the east and stays offshore, those impacts will be less. If it tracks to the west, the Triangle will be more affected.

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