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Gabrielle Doesn't Keep Tourists Off Beach, Residents at Home

The gusty winds and heavy rains of Tropical Storm Gabrielle didn't prevent vacationers from grabbing some fun on the beach and in the ocean.

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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. — Gabrielle came crashing into North Carolina's coast early Sunday morning, but the tropical storm's strongest gusts and heaviest rains were not enough to scare away most beachgoers and residents.

At the Four Corners Diner in Atlantic Beach, tourists and locals grabbed a meal during the day before the approaching storm geared up. Workers said business was just as brisk as any good day.

 "We have worse days than this on just a regular day," resident Beck Hobgood said.

"All the local people, we know what's going on. We've been through them before," resident Richard Willis said. "We've been through Donna and Hazel. Compared to those, this is nothing."

Even tourist Richard Willis, a Raleigh resident, said he was disappointed by a lost day on the beach, but wasn't fazed by the storm's intensity.

"(It's) just really kind of a drizzly, rainy, non-sunshiney day," Willis said.

Officials said that there had been no requests for assistance and that Gabrielle likely would be remembered mostly as an inconvenience.

"We'll be glad to help out if anybody needs it, but right now, we're not hearing anything. It's been kind of quiet," said Julia Jarema, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

Officials preached caution throughout the day as Gabrielle moved through the vacation hotspot. They closed campgrounds on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and put swift water rescue teams and National Guard units on standby. But no one was ordered to evacuate.

Officials in Dare, Hyde and Currituck counties, which cover most of the Outer Banks, said Sunday they had no reports of any water rescues tied to Gabrielle.

In Dare County, Gabrielle's 25 to 30 mph winds made the surf choppy, which brought out the surfers and the red flags.

The Ocean Rescue Squad put out red flags, indicating no-swimming, to deter beachgoers from entering the water. The main danger on Sunday came not from rip currents, but the powerful waves and choppy surf, said David Elder, head of the Kill Devil Hills Rescue Squad.

"This is a day when we don't say, 'Okay, if you're this tall, you can go in,'" Elder said. "It's just, everybody out of the water. (We want to) keep everybody safe. Save it for another day."

"We had heavy surf, but you could tell from looking at it the currents were strong," said Dare County spokeswoman Dorothy Toolan. "People took the advice and stayed out of it today."

Vacationer Shoshannah Torres, however, said she and her family got some fun in the water before the current got too strong.

"The waves are awesome. We're getting multiple waves. We've never seen it this hectic and crazy," Torres said. "The water is enjoyable. The water temperature is amazing."

Warnings of gusty wind and rain didn't stop Derek Creekmore, 32, who with surfing buddy Mark Carter drove to Cape Hatteras from Chesapeake, Va., to ride the tall, breaking waves brought in by the storm.

"It's a lot rougher out there, but this is what we look forward to every year," Creekmore said. "We plan to stay out here until we get tired."

In Wrightsville Beach and the rest of New Hanover County, clouds gathered and rain fell, but barely enough to form puddles in the roads on Sunday afternoon.

As the storm passed to the north of Wrightsville, surfers took advantage of the waves near Johnny Mercer's pier.


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