By IRENE NOLAN
By IRENE NOLAN
After a stormy night — that included a tornado in Hatteras village — Tropical Storm Hermine moved over the Outer Banks and off the North Carolina coast about 8:45 this morning.
Briefly, all was quiet and some folks were out and about thinking that perhaps the worst of the storm had ended, when the backside of Hermine hit Hatteras and Ocracoke with a vengeance.
The east-southeast winds shifted to the west-northwest and picked up speed, sending a storm surge rushing in off the Pamlico Sound. The soundside flooding started in Ocracoke and southern Hatteras around 9:30 a.m. and gradually moved up to Avon and Buxton through the morning.
Winds were sustained at 35 to 40 with gust over 60 from the north-northwest into mid-afternoon and water levels reached 3 feet or more above normal, especially on southern Hatteras Island.
Then about 3 p.m., the wind started dropping off, and the water levels dropped by a foot in Frisco in about 30 minutes time. By 4 p.m., the flooding stopped subsiding as quickly, but there was considerably less tide than earlier in the day. And the sun was even peeking through the gray skies.
Richard Bandy, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City, said he expects the flooding will continue to subside on Hatteras and Ocracoke, but that residents and visitors shouldn’t be surprised if water levels remain high into tomorrow.
Bundy said the wind field of Hermine expanded as it moved offshore and became what meteorologists call “post-tropical.” However, he said the storm will move only slowly northeast away from the Outer Banks and perhaps stall later in the weekend.
He said winds would remain above tropical storm force into this evening, and the wind direction will remain out of the north, contributing to higher than normal water levels on the sound.
Bandy also confirmed — via photographs– that it was indeed a tornado that caused damage to about five trailers and cabins at the Hatteras Sands Campground on Eagle Pass Road in southern Hatteras village. He said it will be a few days before NWS personnel can visit the site and confirm the wind speed and track of the twister.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area at about 12:45 a.m. and the tornado touched down about 1 a.m.
One woman who had been staying in one of the most badly damaged trailers told Island Free Press photographer Don Bowers that she and her family heard the warning on their cell phone and ran for cover in the campground’s bathroom just before the tornado touched down.
Drew Pearson, Dare County’s emergency manager, said that the Hatteras Volunteer Fire Department, Dare County Sheriff’s Office, Dare County Emergency Medical Services, and the Hatteras Island Rescue Squad responded to the 911 call to the campground.
He said three people were transported to the Outer Banks Family Medicine clinic in Avon with what were thought to be minor injuries. He added that other displaced visitors were given temporary lodging in village motels.
In Avon, this morning about 9:30, folks were out driving, riding bikes, and strolling along the pathway and the beach, mostly relieved that they had “missed the storm”
However, within the hour, the tide started rolling in and folks were taking photos and video with cell phones. One family was in bathing suits splashing in the tide. Before, Highway 12 was flooding and one vehicle was already in a ditch, gathering a crowd.
At noon, folks were in Angelo’s in Buxton, for lunch when water started coming in under the door.
According to the National Hurricane Center, at 2 p.m. Tropical Storm Hermine had become post-tropical and was located 90 miles east of Duck, moving east at 10 mph.
The Hurricane Center said a turn toward the northeast and a decrease in forward speed are expected by tonight, followed by a slow northward motion through early Monday.
On the forecast track, the center of Hermine will move away from the North Carolina coast this afternoon and meander offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula Sunday night and early Monday.
Maximum sustained winds were near 70 mph, and Hermine is expected to be near hurricane intensity by Sunday.
The local Weather Service office warns that as a result of the storm stalling, the Outer Banks can expect lingering large swells from the northeast, perhaps into the middle of next week.
“This situation has the potential to result in major erosion issues and overwash through multiple high tide cycles that could result in significant impacts into next week,” the Weather Service said in a briefing.
As Hermine passed offshore early this morning, there was no reported ocean overwash on Highway 12 on Hatteras or Ocracoke or damage to the roadway. Most of the standing water was from the heavy rainfall yesterday and overnight.
This morning, the N.C. Department of Transportation reported that on Pea Island, there was standing water on the road, deep in some locations. Between Buxton and Hatteras there was some sand on the roadway, with deep standing water in areas. Ocracoke Island also reports standing water of 4 to 6 inches on N.C. 12, but did not get ocean overwash.
Bandy said that ocean overwash could become more problematic on Hatteras and Ocracoke with tonight’s high tide around 10 p.m. and even into tomorrow.
The Weather Service also warns that there is a high risk of rip currents and dangerous shorebreak along Outer Banks beaches through the weekend.
To keep up with the latest forecasts and watches and warning, go to www.weather.gov/mhx/.
Residents and visitors can download the ReadyNC app for real-time weather and traffic information. Road condition updates are also available in the Travel section of NCDOT.gov or by following NCDOT on Twitter, where the storm can be followed at #HermineNC.
(Island Free Press reporter Joy Crist contributed to this article.)
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