Fewer Outer Banks tourists after Hurricane Earl

Posted September 4, 2010 2:14 p.m. EDT
Updated September 5, 2010 6:16 p.m. EDT

— Outer Banks businesses are hoping to salvage the traditionally popular Labor Day weekend after Hurricane Earl chased the tourists away, but the crowds are thinner than usual.

"This weekend is like the Fourth of July weekend. It should be packed. And it's a ghost town," Kill Devil Hills resident Robin Mills said Saturday.

Business owners said that thin, post-Earl crowds were taking away as much as 25 percent of their expected business this holiday weekend.

Mostly locals crowded the Jolly Roger restaurant, a popular breakfast joint.

"We're going to take a hit," restaurant owner Carol Ann Angelos said. "But there's still going to be people here. It's a beautiful beach."

All the beaches were opened to visitors and N.C. Highway 12, the main road linking the strand of barrier islands, reopened completely Saturday for the first time in three days.

Some standing water on a few roads and minor damage were the only reminders of Earl, which passed about 55 miles off Cape Hatteras early Friday as a Category 2 storm.

Mandatory evacuations for Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island were lifted Saturday morning, as ferries resumed their normal service.

“You don't take a chance, you just leave. We went up to my daughter's house in Greenville and had a hurricane party there,” Hatteras Island resident Larry Usry said.

Suzy Anthony said her family wasn't scared off by Earl. Instead of returning home to Virginia, they went inland in North Carolina and returned to Kill Devil Hills Saturday.

"We packed an overnight bag. That's all we needed," Anthony said. "That's how unworried we were about it."

The Younce family of Lenoir also spent Saturday enjoying the sand and sun at Kill Devil Hills.

“It’s beautiful here,” Barry Younce said.

“It turned out good. (Earl) went by just in time,” Linda Younce said.

Those who made it out to the beach enjoyed sunny skies and mild temperatures, though lifeguards hung red, "No Swimming" flags to warn of dangerous rip currents.

"It's not as crowded. That's kind of nice for a change," Mills said.