Noel, which lost its tropical characteristics by Friday evening, brought stinging wind gusts and left all of Hatteras Island without power on Friday. The former category 1 hurricane has been the deadliest storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, leaving at least 129 people dead in the Caribbean earlier this week.
"We have high wind warnings, coastal flood warning," said meteorologist Casey Quell at the National Weather Service (NWS) office at Newport. "It's not going to make landfall or anything like that."
As Noel lost its tropical characteristics and became an extra-tropical system, its wind field expanded, WRAL Meteorologist Mike Maze explained.
Data buoys reported waves as high as 15.4 ft and winds of 31.1 knots, or 36.1 mph, off Cape Hatteras at 7:50 a.m. Saturday. Gusts reached 40.8 knots, or 47.3 mph.
Readings showed sustained winds of 25 knots, or 28.8 mph, at Duck, with gusts of up to 31 knots, or 36 mph.
Northeast winds of 30 to 40 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph, were expected to sweep across the coast north of Cape Lookout – including Camden, Currituck, Dare and Hyde counties – through early afternoon. Waves could build to as high as 10 to 14 feet, and a surge of 2 feet was expected during high tide.
Coastal flood advisories expired at 8 a.m.
High surf could also produce dangerous rip currents along beaches south of Cape Lookout. NWS did not expect winds to be as strong in New Hanover, Onslow and Pender counties.
Little rain fell to battle drought conditions. Morehead City had the highest rain total with 0.5 inches by early Saturday morning. A quarter of an inch of rain also dampened Cape Hatteras.
Forecasts said eastern New England should expect 2 to 4 inches of rain and could see as much as 6 inches in places.
Residents and vacationers said Noel's winds packed more of a punch than they expected on Friday.
Data buoys offshore recorded winds as high as 50 mph and waves of 14 feet. Readings in the mid-40 mph range were reported late Friday afternoon at the Alligator River bridge and other places, the weather service said.
"We didn't think it was going to be this bad, to tell you the truth," homeowner Andy Fetzer said. "We just thought it was going to be a little windy. You never know until you're actually down here."
High winds severed a power line south of Bonner Bridge on Friday, knocking out power to 6,000 customers on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
"I was standing at the window and said, 'You know, it's amazing the power hasn't gone out.' And then the power went out," said Fetzer, who played cards with friends in his candle-lit living room to wait out the storm.
State Department of Transportation crews cleared sand blown from dunes onto other sections of N.C. 12 much of the morning and afternoon to improve driving conditions.
"It's starting to show a little bit," Carol Busbey, a co-owner of the Natural Art Surf Shop in Buxton, said on Friday. "Everybody's hoping for it to be the best day of the year for surf, but it's not happening right now. We had a terrible summer because we didn't have any tropical storm activity."
"It's going to stay offshore," said Dare County spokeswoman Dorothy Toolan. "It's going to move past quickly, so we're not expecting any major problems. I think surfers are excited."