Noel's Gusty Winds Buffet Outer Banks

Wind gusts of nearly 50 mph hit offshore Friday as the storm once known as Hurricane Noel followed a northeastward path in the Atlantic Ocean that was expected to bring the storm parallel to North Carolina's coast.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wind gusts of nearly 50 mph hit offshore Friday as the storm once known as Hurricane Noel followed a northeastward path in the Atlantic Ocean that was expected to bring the storm parallel to North Carolina's coast.

Noel, which had lost its tropical characteristics by Friday evening, was about 320 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras on Friday evening, moving northeast at about 25 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Noel left at least 129 people dead in the Caribbean earlier this week, making it the deadliest storm of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season.

"We have high wind warnings, coastal flood warning," said meteorologist Casey Quell at the National Weather Service office at Newport. "It's not going to make landfall or anything like that."

Power lines serving Hatteras Island were knocked out at about 5 p.m., leaving 4,000 to 6,000 customers without power, Dare County Emergency Management Director Sandy Sanderson said. Crews hoped to have power restored by 9 p.m., he said.

Data buoys offshore recorded winds as high as 50 mph and waves reached 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.

Little rain was expected to battle drought conditions, although some spotty precipitation might occur. Forecasts said eastern New England should expect 2 to 4 inches of rain and could see as much as 6 inclhes in places.

The winds drove water onto N.C. Highway 12 in Rodanthe on Friday afternoon, Sanderson said. But he said the water, which was being blown in by the storm at high tide, wasn't expected to cause any problems.

"Seeing this develop and coming in this direction is not surprising. Thankfully, it's staying offshore," he said.

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.

At 5 p.m. Friday, Noel was 320 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, moving northeast at 20 mph. Maximum sustained winds were near 80 mph, and gusts near the center of the storm reached 100 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"We come down about the same time every year. This is the first time for weather like this. I don't know if it's late in the year for it or not," Nags Head visitor Bill Sollars said.

On Ocracoke Island, John Miginsky at Ride the Wind surf shop said waves were supposed to be 6 to 8 feet, but the wind was blowing them down after they crested. That made for poor surfing conditions, he said, but things could improve in the afternoon if the wind direction changed.

"It's not raining. It's pretty pleasant," Miginsky said. "The wind is blowing onshore but it's just closing out the waves. They break and it's a closeout."

The North Carolina DOT's Ferry Division said ferry service between Currituck and Knotts Island was temporarily suspended because of high winds from the storm and low water in Currituck Sound. The agency said other coastal ferry service also might be affected by the winds from Noel.

Hyde County, which includes Ocracoke, hasn't seen significant effects from the offshore storm, said emergency management Director Tony Spencer. He said there may be some road flooding at high tide around 2 p.m. as wind blows the water ashore in low-lying areas.

"It's been gusty since the middle of last night," Spencer said. "It's just been blowing."

Dare County officials had no plans to activate the county's emergency operations center, saying they didn't expect major impacts from the storm. Because Noel will move past the Outer Banks late Friday night during low tide, officials said, little beach erosion is expected.

"If your beach house has survived to this point, this storm is not going to be the storm that will do any damage to it," Sanderson said.

The storm was welcome news for surfers, though the weather service warned of strong rip currents through Saturday.

"It's starting to show a little bit," said Carol Busbey, a co-owner of the Natural Art Surf Shop in Buxton. "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."

WRAL Meteorologist Mike Maze said the coast could experience tropical storm-force winds much of Saturday as Noel continues to trudge northward. The storm was losing its tropical characteristics and becoming an extra-tropical system, meaning its wind field expanded, he said.

"I wasn't really expecting it to be bad down here, but you never know," fisherman Gary Lavender said. "We found a spot down by the bridge where you can get out of the wind, so it's been a good day."

N-O-E-L Doesn't Spell Drought Relief
Forecasters did not expect the storm to bring rain to the parched state. All of the state's 100 counties are experiencing some level of drought, with 73 percent of the state reporting severe conditions.

"Rain is going to be very spotty," said National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Kreitner in Wilmington. "This is not a drought-buster."

The threat of high winds prompted the weather service to issue small-craft advisories.

"Luckily, most of these winds are going to be offshore," Kreitner said. "With an offshore breeze like this, there is not as much concern for beach erosion or coastal flooding. The biggest concern is for boaters and anybody who may want to get in the water."

Forecasters expect some soundside flooding along the southern shores of the Neuse and Pamlico rivers, with the worst between 4 to 6 feet on the south shore of Pamlico Sound in Craven and Carteret counties.

In Hyde County, Ocracoke Island residents were told to prepare for power outages during high winds and to expect flooding on N.C. Highway 12, said emergency management Director Tony Spencer. Hyde County officials said winds should pick up overnight and be at their highest speeds on Friday of near 40 mph before dropping into the 20 mph-range Saturday.

"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."


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