Local News

Turbulent Summer Not Keeping People Away From N.C. Coast

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EMERALD ISLE — Even with all of the trouble North Carolina's coast has seen in recent weeks, people are still flocking to the beaches this summer.

The National Weather Service warned swimmers late Friday that large offshore ocean swells will make rip currents likely along North Carolina beaches this weekend.

Shark attacks,rip tides,seaweedand thestart of hurricane seasonare just nuisances to many people along the North Carolina coast.

"I'm used to [hurricanes]," says Emerald Isle homeowner Sue Wright. "We have hurricane shutters. We put them up and leave, and hope there's no damage when we come back. We don't like it, but it's just part of being down here."

When Wright invited her family to Emerald Isle for a vacation, she knew that big waves might not be their only obstacle.

"It's been kind of scary this year, but I think things seemed to have settled down some," she says.

No one wants a hurricane stirring things up. Town manager Pete Allen has seen enough tropical weather in the past few years.

"We've had seven [hurricanes] in four years. Before that, we had one in 36 years," he says. "We've paid our dues for the last four or five years. We could take a break."

Keeping residents safe and happy is not the only concern for town leaders at the coast. Tourism keeps the local economy strong. Business is booming at Emerald Isle, despite a summer of ups and downs.

"We've been very fortunate this year," says Phyllis Ford with the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. "They've just named the first [hurricane]. I think that's a good sign for us that this won't be as bad a year as they had planned on it being."

So far nothing seems to have made a dent in tourism. In July alone, 60,000 people visited theNorth Carolina Aquariumat Pine Knoll Shores.

"A lot of people have been coming into the aquarium, participating in our programs," says aquarium director Jay Barnes. "I don't think the seaweed or the stories about shark attacks has had any impact on our visitation that I can see at all."

As long as the skies stay clear, the coast can expect another wave of tourism this fall.

Since many North Carolina students are headed back to school, lodging rates at the coast have dropped sharply. The Carteret County Chamber of Commerce says there are a lot of good deals to be had for late-summer vacationers.

The good news for Carteret County's tourism industry can be measured in dollars and cents. In June 2000, revenues from lodging taxes were up 8 percent over June 1999, and up 14 percent from the same month in 1998.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Adrienne Traxinger, Photographer
Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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