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Dare County Evacuates Again As Dennis Returns

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RALEIGH — Tropical Storm Dennis continues to pound away at the northern half of the Outer Banks with gale force winds. Dennis, downgraded from a hurricane late Tuesday, has caused a mandatory evacuation for parts of Dare County.

Effective 5 a.m. Wednesday, a mandatory evacuation will be in effect for Highway 12 (Virginia Dare Trail) in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk. Highway 158 Bypass will remain open. Evacuation is for the beachroad only. Evacuation routes from Dare County include Highway 158 East and Highway 64 West.

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, the storm is located 120 miles east of Cape Hatteras. Dennis has been nearly stationary Wednesday morning, but is expected to move west in an erratic pattern. A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Outer Banks.

The National Hurricane Center predicts that Dennis could move slowly west and and then turn southwest Wednesday night. That would take it along the same path -- but in reverse -- that it followed when it crept along North Carolina's coast Monday without coming ashore.

Listen to Mike Maze's 9 a.m. forecast

Dare County has taken the worst hit from Dennis. WRAL's Jim Payne, reporting from Kill Devil Hills, says driving winds continue to pound the fragile coast.

Listen to Jim Payne's latest from Kill Devil Hills, 10 p.m.

The surf is eating away at the sand dunes at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island. Thirty miles of the 40-mile stretch of N.C. 12 from the Oregon Inlet south to near Buxton is reportedly under water and has been closed by Dare County Emergency Management.

Since the storm has not let up,Department of Transportationroad crews cannot come in to clear roads until at least Friday. It is possible ferries will start running again before the roads are reopened.

TheNational Weather Centersays that weather conditions are not likely to improve at the Outer Banks for the next 72 hours.

Dennis still has many people cut off from dry land. WRAL reporter Mark Roberts took an aerial tour in the new SKY 5 and made the following observations from above ground:
  • The first photos of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse show the structure weathered Hurricane Dennis well at its new home, although the structure is sitting in a pool of water.
  • Nearly the entire town of Frisco sits under several inches of water.
  • In Hatteras Village, it is hard to tell where the marina stops and the road starts.
  • N.C. 12 is almost completely under water.
  • Governor Hunthas sent a letter to President Clinton, asking that the area affected by Hurricane Dennis be declared a disaster area. If approved, it would clear the way for use of federal funds and facilities for cleanup and make residents and businesses eligible for disaster loans.

    On Hatteras Island, approximately 5,000 people are stranded with only a two-day supply of food. Transportation workers say if they cannot get roads open for people to get out, the National Guard is prepared to go in with ready-to-eat meals, baby food, baby formula and other supplies that may not be available locally.

    The rain and sand are still whipping around. It was high winds that knocked over part of a gas station in Nags Head.

    The owner of the Shell Station, Dennis O'Shell, said the canopy teetered over gradually.

    "The customers kept trying to drive underneath it when it was leaning almost to the ground," O'Shell says. "I was out there trying to wave them off. And finally I got it blocked off. The fire department showed up and helped me block the whole thing off, and then it just finished going all the way and sat on top of the pumps and crushed them."

    Power crews tried to restore electricity for thousands still without power on the Outer Banks.

    "They gave us a couple calls, but there's a whole lot of stuff down, wires down that we're finding as we get in here," said foreman Joe Murphy. "It's going to be time-consuming to get it all back."

    State officials say at one point more than 60,000 customers in North Carolina were without power. About 6,000 are still in the dark. Officials say most of those people will have power before the end of the day.

    Early estimates show the damage appears to be minimal, mostly flooding in low-lying areas, beach erosion and downed trees.

    Members of theNational Guardare moving from a staging area in Kinston to aU.S. Coast Guardstation in Elizabeth City to be closer to damaged areas.

    State leaders planned to fly over the hardest-hit areas Tuesday, but were unable to do so because of the weather. Officials also want to keep the airspace over Dare County closed so emergency personnel can get in and out quickly.

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    Len Besthoff, Reporter
    Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
    Julie Moos, Web Editor

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