The first hurricane of the Atlantic season hit the North Carolina coast early Friday, a wet and windy spoiler of the Independence Day holiday for thousands of Americans, causing minor flooding but no deaths or injuries.
Hurricane Arthur crossed the coast near Cape Lookout at the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday (0315 GMT Friday), shaking and rattling vacation homes on the Outer Banks, flooding roads and cutting off island communities from the mainland.
It contained maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour (160 kph), earning it a Category 2 status on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It weakened to a Category 1 with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph on Friday morning, the NHC said.
“The house was shaking. Pictures were falling off the wall,” Paul Jones, a retired Maryland state police helicopter pilot, told Reuters by telephone from his oceanfront house on Hatteras Island after riding out his first hurricane on the island.
“My wind meter was destroyed … it stopped at 85 (mph) somewhere around 2 o’clock in the morning,” he added, saying his neighborhood was flooded with about two feet (60 cm) of water, with up to four feet (120 cm) in places on Highway 12, the narrow 50-mile (80-km) road connecting the island to the mainland.
“We have no reports of any major flood or damage at this time,” said Rick Martinez, a spokesman for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. State officials said 41,500 customers were without power after the storm.
Arthur is the first hurricane to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey in October 2012, causing an estimated $70 billion in damage.
By 8 a.m. (1200 GMT) Friday, Arthur was moving northeast at about 21 mph (34 kph) as it headed oceanward, the NHC said.
“It’s pushing offshore from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It did not stay over land very long and it did not traverse a lot of land,” National Hurricane Center meteorologist Chris Landsea said earlier, adding it lingered over Pamlico Sound for about six hours.
“It’s expected to accelerate during the day as it passes southeast of New England,” he said. It was forecast to pass southeast of Cape Cod on Friday evening.
“It was extremely intimidating,” said retiree Gerry Lebing who with his wife Karen rode out the storm in the village of Waves on Hatteras. “The house started rocking and rolling around 11 o’clock last night and it never stopped until around 5:45 this morning,” he said.
Arthur was a medium-sized storm with hurricane-force winds extending outward only up to 40 miles (65 km) and lesser tropical storm-force winds 150 miles (240 km).
LITTLE RISK TO NORTHEASTERN U.S.
Arthur was moving northeastward over cooler water on Friday, diminishing in strength as wind-shear disrupted its structure and posing little risk to the densely populated northeastern United States, Landsea said.
Tropical storm warnings would be in effect throughout Friday for eastern Massachusetts, including Nantucket. Arthur would be around western Nova Scotia in Canada early on Saturday.
The storm disrupted July Fourth festivities and fireworks for holiday beachgoers and others who were ordered off low-lying North Carolina barrier islands.
Tourists and some residents packed ferries and crowded the only highway off Ocracoke and Hatteras islands, where voluntary and mandatory evacuations were in effect, though some people stayed behind to look after their homes.
North Carolina officials warned of life-threatening rip currents and a storm surge of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters).
Part of Highway 12 was washed out by storm surge for two months after Superstorm Sandy, forcing people to use ferries.
North Carolina was putting heavy equipment in place to remove sand and overwash quickly after Arthur passed, and hundreds of military and state police officials were deployed to help with storm preparation, safety and evacuation efforts.
(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, David Adams in Miami, Ted Siefer in New Hampshire, Richard Weizel in Connecticut and Sandra Maler in Washington, DC; Writing by David Adams and Eric M. Johnson; Editing by James Dalgleish)