N.C. beaches opening after brush with Hurricane Earl

Posted September 3, 2010 9:13 a.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2010 12:39 a.m. EDT

— Most of North Carolina's beaches, except Hatteras Island, have been re-opened after Hurricane Earl landed less of a blow than feared, the governor and local officials say.

"It's going to be a beautiful Labor Day weekend in North Carolina," Gov. Bev Perdue said. "Folks who have summer plans can come on back and end up their summer here in North Carolina."

All beaches – and the bridges connecting them to the mainland – have been reopened in Currituck County, northern Dare County and in a stretch from the South Carolina border north through Carteret County that includes the Wilmington area, Crystal Coast and Core and Bogue banks.

"It wound up being a pretty minor event for us – just a little bit of wind, little bit of rain, but generally no significant problems to speak of," Emerald Isle Town Manager Frank Rush said.

University of North Carolina-Wilmington student Quinn Christie hit the waves at Wrightsville Beach shortly after dawn.

"Got some nice tubes, so it was clean. It was a nice day out," Christie said.

Tourists have been showing interest at Johnnie Mercer's Fishing Pier, storekeeper Warren Long said.

"We're expecting a good weekend for Labor Day weekend," he said. "I've had a lot of people calling, wanting to go fishing this weekend."

Nags Head Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said that visitors can keep their Labor Day plans and enjoy some nice beach days.

Most state parks, from Jockey's Ridge to Fort Macon, have reopened. Bear Island at Hammocks Beach State Park won't open until Saturday.

The southern half of the Outer Banks – including Hatteras Island in Dare County – remains cut off by 2 to 3 feet of sand and water piled on N.C. Highway 12, the only road connecting that island to the outside world. It's shut down south of the Bonner Bridge across the Oregon Inlet but will reopen Saturday at 7 a.m., transportation officials said.

More than 30 DOT workers are using 24 pieces of heavy equipment to clear the highway. The hardest areas were Rodanthe and parts of Ocracoke.

For those who do make it out to the beaches, it will be a pleasant Labor Day weekend.

After the lingering clouds from Earl pass away, the sun will increase throughout the weekend. A cold front will slip across the state overnight Friday.

"Behind it, a very pleasant air mass builds in for the weekend and even for Labor Day, so we're talking about much cooler temperatures," WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said.

Along the coast, temperatures will reach highs in the low to mid 80s through the holiday weekend.