The latest winter storm to take aim on the North Carolina coast might not be as strong as it earlier looked to be.
“But it’s still going to be a big storm for the Outer Banks,” Casey Dail, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport, N.C., said this afternoon.
The Weather Service has issued gale warnings for the Pamlico Sound and coastal waters and both a wind advisory and a coastal flood advisory for Outer Banks Dare and Hyde counties.
The winds may not be much higher than they have been in other winter storms, but Dail said the long duration of the winds and rough seas could be trouble, especially for Highway 12 on Hatteras Island.
A low pressure area is approaching from the west and will move off the coast near the North Carolina-Virginia border on Wednesday and deepen rapidly as it moves northeast on Wednesday night and into Thursday.
A wind advisory is in effect from 8 a.m. Wednesday until 9 a.m. Thursday. Winds are forecast to be from the west tomorrow at 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 45. The winds will go to the northwest Wednesday night and continue at the same strength well into Thursday and perhaps early Friday.
The coastal flood advisory is in effect from 1 p.m. Wednesday until 7 p.m. Friday. The west and northwest winds will pile sound water up on the backside of Hatteras and Ocracoke, and tides are forecast to be 2 to 3 feet above normal.
Even though the winds will be westerly tomorrow, from the northwest on Thursday, and turning more northerly on Friday, the storm offshore will produce heavy seas with wave heights of 8 to 13 feet.
The heavy seas and high waves will likely continue through Friday and perhaps into Saturday, when seas are still expected to be 8 to 11 feet. That could mean ocean overwash, especially at high tide, north of Cape Hatteras for up to four days.
The overwash is most likely at Mirlo Beach and the S-curves in northern Rodanthe and possible in north Buxton. High tides are mid- to late-afternoon and in the early morning hours the rest of the week.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division has warned that the high winds could affect travel by ferry, starting tomorrow.
Ferry Division crews have prepared their docking facilities to be ready in case routes need to be shut down when the storm arrives, making ferry travel potentially unsafe.
Travelers who have reservations or plans to use ferry routes are advised to check with the departure terminal for up-to-date information. The phone numbers are:
Ocracoke – (252) 928-1665
Cedar Island – (252) 225-7411
Swan Quarter – (252) 926-6021
Hatteras – (252) 986-2353
Cherry Branch – (252) 447-1055
Southport – (910) 457-6942
Fort Fisher – (910) 458-3329
Bayview-Aurora – (252) 964-4521
Currituck-Knotts Island – (252) 232-2683
Travelers can also call 800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY) and Press 1 for up-to-date ferry information, or sign up to receive Tweets on their personal cell phones by going to www.twitter.com/ncdot_ferry.