Storm-weary Outer Banks battered but not beaten
Hurricane Arthur made landfall on North Carolina's Outer Banks late Thursday, just after strengthening to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 100mph. At 11:15pm EST Arthur's eye came ashore in Shackleford Banks, North Carolina, near Cape Lookout, where 101mph winds were measured.
Arthur was the first Category 2 (or higher) hurricane to strike the United States since Ike in 2008 and the first hurricane make landfall in the U.S. since Isaac and Sandy in 2012. The last hurricane to hit the Outer Banks was Irene in 2011.
Arthur began pulling away from North Carolina early on the Fourth of July holiday after blowing down power lines causing thousands of outages and washing away portions of the lone thoroughfare on the Outer Banks, North Carolina Highway 12.
The only road onto Hatteras Island, North Carolina Highway 12, was reopened to all traffic on Saturday Afternoon, hours after permanent residents were first allowed to return. The island had been closed to visitors since early Thursday. A small section of the barrier island's lone highway buckled after being submerged by churning waters during the storm. Extensive water wash along other stretches prompted officials to warn drivers of pockets of sand on the highway.
Farther south, Ocracoke Island's electricity distribution system was badly damaged by Arthur, leading officials to order residents to quit using air conditioners and water heaters so that generator-supplied power could provide refrigeration and other necessities during a cycle of planned outages. A nightly curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. was declared until power was fully restored. Vacationers were being coaxed to leave with the offer of free ferry rides out. As of Friday Morning, North Carolina officials reported more than 41,000 customers without power.
Other Outer Banks towns, like Rodanthe and Salvo, were flooded on Friday across nearly the entire width of Hatteras Island from the ocean to the sound.
Hurricane prone, the North Carolina Outer Banks are a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 full-time residents. During storms, the islands are battered by high winds, rough seas and road-clogging sands, making evacuations prudent. But the barrier islands are also a popular and remote vacation spot. Before the storm hit, tourism officials had expected 250,000 people to travel to the Outer Banks for the holiday weekend.
On Saturday, beach towns along the popular vacation stretch of North Carolina coast began a return to normal.
New England was largely spared from damages from the storm, but some 19,000 people in Maine and 1,600 in Vermont were without power after high winds and heavy rains pounded the region. There were reports of localized flooding in coastal areas of Massachusetts and the Nova Star Ferry suspended service Friday and Saturday morning because of dangerous seas. No injuries or deaths have been reported.
The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and fireworks show were held Thursday night just before a heavy downpour from Arthur, while fireworks displays in New Jersey and Maine were postponed until later in the weekend.
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