Local News

Tropical storm's winds could hinder wildfire efforts

Posted July 21, 2008 5:39 a.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2008 6:41 p.m. EDT

— Officials fighting a wildfire that has burned thousands of acres in eastern North Carolina had hoped Tropical Storm Cristobal would bring heavy rain before moving away from shore.

But the storm only dropped about half an inch of rain on the Evans Road wildfire. Officials say the storms winds could make it worse for firefighters.

Fire spokeswoman Melissa Yunas said, as of Sunday, the rain wasn't enough to extinguish the underground peat fire. The fire has burned 41,553 acres in and around Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge since it started June 1.

"This fire has been likened to a charcoal grill where you have the coals just glowing and continue to glow. And even when we get some rain on the area the heat is still there," said Bruce MacDonald, with the N.C. Forest Service.

Tropical Storm Cristobal headed for the open Atlantic late Sunday as forecasters discontinued tropical storm warnings along North Carolina.

Monday morning, Cristobal's maximum sustained winds were 50 mph.

The National Hurricane Center's advisory said the storm's center would head away from the coast early Monday, and predicted little change in strength over the next day or two.

The storm's strongest winds were east of the center, out at sea, National Weather Service meteorologist Rich Bandy said. Winds on the coastal side of the storm were about 25 mph and will have little impact on coastal cities unless the storm strengthens.

A WRAL crew recorded gusts up to 22 mph in Buxton at 6 p.m. Sunday. Earlier, a crew recorded gusts up to 42 mph along the coast from Cristobal.

Beachgoers on the coast enjoyed the day despite the rough surf and hit and miss showers. Lee Revis visited Atlantic Beach on Sunday for a vacation.

“We’re going to make the best of it,” Revis said.

Cristobal's winds were expected to push tides 2 to 3 feet above normal. The rough surf at Atlantic Beach had A.J. Brooks trading in his surf board for a foam board.

“It’s kind of like a washing machine out there today,” Brooks said of the conditions.

Realtors in the Cape Hatteras area reported 94 percent occupancy for the weekend with only a few cancellations.

The National Weather Service said a few areas could see flooding from heavy rain. Minor flooding was reported Saturday in Wilmington, and the area picked up 3.43 inches of rain, a record for the day.

Follow Cristobal's course with WRAL's StormTracker.

Amid strong rip currents on Friday, one man died in the ocean, and rescuers pulled 72 people from the ocean off Duck, Southern Shores and Nags Head in the northern Outer Banks.

See images of Tropical Storm Cristobal's action along the coast. Submit your own photos.



Are you prepared for Hurricane Season? Watch the "Storm Track 2008" special airing at 7 p.m. July 31 on WRAL.