Forecasters: Coastal storm heads for NC landfall

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A low-pressure system off the Southeast coast chugged toward landfall Thursday, but forecasters said the storm wasn’t expected to do more onshore than blow down some limbs and bring patchy rain.

Forecasters said the storm still was about 170 miles southeast of Wilmington at about 6 a.m. and had pushed some wind gusts and rain ashore, but seemed to be a typical nor’easter. It was expected to bring high surf and dangerous rip currents to big chunks of the East Coast over the next couple of days.

“It really isn’t anything to write home about,” said forecaster Rick Neuherz at the National Weather Service bureau in Wilmington. “It’s possible that later today at high tide we could see a little bit of minor coastal flooding, a bit of trickling over the dunes.”

A hurricane hunter aircraft would be sent into the storm to check again for tropical characteristics, said Jim Merrell at the weather service bureau in Newport. The plane sent into the storm a day earlier didn’t find any tropical characteristics.

Merrell said flooding had closed NC Highway 12 on Hatteras Island, which isn’t unusual, and that schools were closed in Dare and Carteret counties because of the winds. Gusts hit about 40 mph at Beaufort.

“The effects of it are being felt from the Southeast in Florida all the way to the Northeast,” Neuherz said, but said the rain from the storm was less than an inch.

Gale warnings were posted for most of the Southeast coast from the Georgia coast to as far north as Massachusetts. Forecasters also said winds to 46 mph and seas as high as 22 feet were expected in the Atlantic.

Strong winds from the wide-reaching storm were expected to whip well inland in some places, gusting to as high as 45 mph and threatening to spin off tornadoes across the eastern third of North Carolina on Thursday, the weather service said.

But along the North and South Carolina coast, some seasoned residents said the storm was a typical blast that kicked up waves and kept most boats tied to their docks.

“Nobody’s fishing. The ocean’s too choppy. Solid whitecaps. The wind’s ripping,” said Ocracoke Island charter captain Dave Nagel. “It’s just a regular old nor’easter.”

A movie premier of “Nights in Rodanthe” went on as scheduled on the Outer Banks on Wednesday night for locals who were extras in the film, said tourism bureau chief Carolyn McCormick. People who couldn’t get home from Kill Devil Hills were given cut rates at local motels.

“The house was full. People clapped through it,” McCormick said, adding that only four people didn’t make it and those were from Ocracoke Island.

In Annapolis, Md., city officials were offering sandbags to prepare for the possibility of flooding in the low-lying City Dock area. They will likely be available through Friday.