Published: 2008-09-25 05:08:00
Updated: 2008-09-25 22:54:16
Posted September 25, 2008 5:08 a.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2008 10:54 p.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — An intense low-pressure system chugging toward the North Carolina coast packed winds with gusts up to more than 60 mph Thursday and continued to intensify as it was forecast to move across the state.
Wind advisories were in effect for parts of North Carolina and gusts were expected to be more than 40 mph, WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
"The storm certainly has acquired at least some tropical characteristics, but the National Hurricane Center has chosen not to give it a name and to simply allow it to come inland over the course of the evening hours as a strong nor'easter," Fishel said.
Light rain fell across parts of the Triangle Thursday afternoon, and periods of heavy rain and possibly isolated thunderstorms were forecast for the evening, when the storm moves inland, bringing up to 1.5 inches of rain to the area by Friday morning.
Tornado warnings were also issued near the coast, including one in Onslow County. Fishel said it was possible some could be issued in counties south of the Triangle, including Cumberland, Hoke and Sampson.
Occasional thunderstorms, some wind and cooler temperatures – a high of 60 degrees – are expected Friday as the system moves into the mountains, which are still in serious need of rain.
"The moisture lingers right on into Saturday, so at least off and on, showers will be a possibility until Sunday," Fishel said.
Along the North Carolina coast – where the eye of the storm was expected to make landfall near Wrightsville Beach – a coastal flood warning was in effect until 8 p.m., and a wind advisory was also in effect for some counties.
In Nags Head, it rained off and on all day, with the storm sending 8- to 10-foot swells crashing onto the shore.
N.C. Highway 12 on Hatteras Island, the only north-south route on the Outer Banks, reopened after noon, after water stopped washing over the roadway. Dare County officials said the road could close again because the ocean would cover the low-lying road during high tides over the next two days.
"It's still a very intense nor'easter, an intense area of low pressure," said National Weather Service forecaster Jeff Orrock.
At Wrightsville Beach, strong waves pounded away at the beach, washing away the shore where beach erosion already is a major concern.
Vacationers Bill and Linda Schweikert from Stow, Ohio, snapped photos of gray, head-high waves in brisk 30 mph winds.
"Lake Erie doesn't do this very often," said Linda Schweikert, 62, a retired teacher. "It is pretty."
Elsewhere along the coast, high winds and heavy rain forced officials to close Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher state parks.
Minor flooding was reported along the coast from South Carolina to Virginia. Two North Carolina counties closed schools for the day, and motorists were warned to be careful on roads and high bridges.
Winds along the Interstate 95 corridor hit 40 mph, Orrock said, and gale or storm warnings were posted as far north as Massachusetts.
Winds should diminish after raking the eastern and central parts of North Carolina later Thursday, he said.
The weather service said there was a high risk of rip currents along the northern South Carolina coast and warned "no one should enter the water through Thursday night." Forecasters said the surf would be rough and chaotic, with waves reaching 7 feet.
In Charleston, squalls spun in from the ocean early Thursday, and motorists were warned to drive carefully across tall bridges in the area because of crosswinds.
People were walking the sand in Myrtle Beach, S.C., but no one was going in the water, said Barbara Crawford, the manager of the waterfront Viking Motel. "It's just kind of a cruddy day," Crawford said.