Published: 2016-08-30 17:40:00
Updated: 2018-07-13 13:38:48
Posted August 30, 2016 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 1:38 p.m. EDT
BUXTON, N.C. — Tropical depression eight brushed past the North Carolina coast and moved out to sea Tuesday night but a tropical system forecast for the end of the week could impact a larger portion of the state.
Tropical depression eight had minimal impact on the North Carolina coast, dumping only showers along the Outer Banks Tuesday night, but WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said that tropical depression nine in the Gulf of Mexico could have a far greater impact.
“Tropical depression nine looks more formidable tonight and it may be more formidable for North Carolina,” Maze said. “The American model and the European model now track the storm closer to the North Carolina coast.”
It is likely that tropical depression will strengthen into a tropical storm Wednesday and Maze said he wouldn’t be surprised if it continued to intensify.
“We could be even talking about the potential for a hurricane watch issued for the southeast coast which could include North Carolina,” he said.
A cold front that moves in Thursday will bring rain to North Carolina and Maze said that the tropical system could impact the Triangle if the cold front and tropical system interact Friday.
WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said even though the storm looks like it could be more intense, he would not cancel Labor Day weekend beach plans yet. He believes that skies should be sunny by Saturday, but the question that remains is whether or not damage from the storm on Friday will impact beachgoers.
The Outer Banks only saw a few showers Tuesday and visitors were able to get out and enjoy the beach Tuesday afternoon as rainfall totals and winds were downgraded from the original forecast.
Visitor Katherine Vega, 45, of Springhill, Tennessee, said she could handle a day indoors during her vacation. By Monday afternoon, she had already fled the Atlantic's swelling waves and strengthening currents off Hatteras Island in Buxton.
"We were just knee-deep, and there were a few times where we had to run out because it kept sucking us in," she said, adding she'd watch movies with her husband until the storm blows through.
"We came from Tennessee," she said with a shrug. "There are tornado threats over there."
Many on the beach Tuesday said they have lived through far worse storms on the Outer Banks.
"Hurricane Bob, August 19, 1991. That was a minor one. Emily was the one that really hit, everything consipred to make it very bad on the island," said visitor Bruce Docherty.
"I would advise everybody to take a look at the weather," Dare County emergency management director Drew Pearson said when asked whether visitors should keep their travel plans. "They need to make those decisions based on what they see in the weather forecast."
Despite the diminished risk for a severe storm, many took precautions like moving cars in low-lying areas.
"Just in case the ocean came over or the sound blew up because the storms have a tendency to blow up real big overnight. Better be on the safe side," said visitor Jacob Allen.
David Brown, 61, spent his morning working on a sand castle that he hoped will hold up through the storm.
Brown, from Pennsylvania, had never been to the beach before.
"I've never been to the ocean before, no. But I have been in storms before, so it's not a big deal to me," he said. "What it does to the ocean is quite impressive."
On North Carolina's Outer Banks, business owner Jennifer Scarborough said her biggest concern was that the first storm could saturate the area before another blow by the second storm.
"The second storm is the one I'm more worried about," she said. "I'm definitely keeping an eye on it and planning accordingly. ... If we have a lot of rain in a short amount of time that could be a problem."
Roads along the thin barrier islands are prone to flooding and damage from erosion, including the two-lane N.C. Highway 12 that is the area's main north-south artery.
"N.C. 12, our lifeline on Hatteras Island, even in a winter storm has some challenges," Pearson said.
Scarborough, who manages Hatteras Harbor Marina and owns the Harbor Deli next door, said she's receiving concerned calls from customers and that some captains are canceling fishing trips for Tuesday and Wednesday. With Labor Day approaching, the week represents one of the last busy stretches of summer for the area.
"It's definitely making people think twice about coming here," she said.
Carol Dillion's family has owned the Outer Banks Motel since 1955.
Their taxes have increased to pay for a beach nourishment project aimed at minimizing the flooding, but the project has been delayed until 2017. She said she will be extremely disappointed if the project is not completed next hurricane season.
"I'm going to kill somebody if they don't (finish it). It's that simple," Dillon said. "Because you don't realize how many nights I've lost sleep. Am I going to lose my motel tonight?"
Thankfully, this storm system is not expected to give Dillon a sleepless night.
"It's only 35 mph. We have that all the time. That's routine for us," she said.